Skirmishes on Super Saturday as Lib Dem leader and the Mayor of London hit front line of election battle
Jo Swinson and Sadiq Khan turn up the heat in Hampstead and Kilburn
21 November, 2019 — By Richard Osley
Placard battle in Hampstead and Kilburn
LIBERAL Democrats say they have Labour “rattled” in Hampstead and Kilburn after party members ambushed their leader Jo Swinson at a set-piece general election visit.
In the busiest day of campaigning in the Labour-held seat so far, dubbed “Super Saturday” due to the number of high-profile visits, Ms Swinson was met first by a crowd of supporters, and then by a handful of Labour activists chanting: “Don’t vote Jo Swinson”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan meanwhile appeared in West Hampstead to support Tulip Siddiq’s campaign to get re-elected on December 12.
Liberal Democrats and Labour members clash
Outside the Razumovsky Academy in Kensal Rise, on the Brent side of the constituency, a skirmish unfolded as Ms Swinson arrived, with red Labour placards competing for air time in front of the TV news camera with the Lib Dems’ famous orange diamonds.
Amid the angry words, the Labour campaigners said Ms Swinson was funded by frackers and should take some of the blame for the rise in food bank use and austerity policies first enacted by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government.
Matt Sanders waits for party leader Jo Swinson, who arrived in her big yellow battle bus
One Lib Dem turned around and angrily accused the Labour members of supporting anti-semitism and said he had “a right to protest against the protesters” as Ms Swinson was hurried through the front door.
The party leader, who also chose Camden to host the party’s national manifesto launch last night, appearing at the Fest bar in the Stables Market, had earlier parked her big yellow campaign bus outside Kensal Rise station where an organised band of supporters cheered her arrival. She met three young children with Arsenal hats and joked: “You like Spurs then?”, revealing afterwards that her father had been a Tottenham Hotspur supporter.
Then she walked to the academy where she planted a tree in the back garden to mark her policy announcement that the party planned to plant 60 million new trees if successful at the election. Outside the chanting continued.
Ms Siddiq’s campaign team has distanced itself from the heckling: all candidates have pledged a clean fight and her aides said that they did not recognise people in photos of the confrontation.
But Lib Dem candidate Matt Sanders said: “Labour are rattled. Labour are desperately insisting that they don’t feel threatened by the Liberal Democrats – while also putting out leaflets attacking us and sending confrontational activists to chase Jo Swinson down the street.”
He added: “Labour hacks can drown out the message but the fact is thousands of voters across Hampstead and Kilburn agree with our call to stop Brexit, invest in public services and tackle the climate emergency.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan on the campaign trail with Tulip Siddiq
With that “Stop Brexit” message, the party has caused a few ripples of surprise by targeting Ms Siddiq, who holds a majority of more than 15,000 votes and was one of the most pro-remain MPs in the last parliament. She repeatedly voted against Brexit including the triggering of Article 50 in the first place. Her lead over the Lib Dems, who finished third at the 2017 general election, was more than 30,000.
This is partly the cause of the surprise behind the Lib Dem move to use resources here which could be targeted against vulnerable leave-supporting MPs.
Jo Swinson came to the local campaign twice this week
But Ms Swinson told the New Journal: “We are the party of remain and that’s why we are campaigning enthusiastically. At the end of the day, every Labour candidate is standing on a manifesto that is about negotiating a Labour Brexit and not even having any clarity about whether they would then campaign to remain.”
While Labour has said it will hold a second referendum if it wins the general election, Ms Siddiq personally has said she will always vote against any Brexit deal.
The fight for the “Remain vote” could be key as around 75 per cent of people in Camden who took part in the 2016 referendum voted to stay in the EU.
Jo Swinson greets Matt Sanders with a hug
Ms Siddiq has warned that the Lib Dems “aggressive” campaign against a pro-EU candidate risked splitting the vote in favour of the Tories. Soon after Ms Swinson had finished her campaign stop, Mr Khan arrived in West Hampstead Square to rally the troops with an enthusiastic stump speech, urging activists to campaign and donate more for Ms Siddiq.
He said afterwards that members in the constituency were both working on Ms Siddiq’s campaign, but also leaving London to help out in more marginal seats where Labour is at risk of losing an MP or has sized up a potential gain.
Sadiq Khan draws a crowd in West Hampstead
Mr Khan said: “We’re not going to take anything for granted. What we do know is that every vote matters, and so what you’ve got across London today, are people canvassing in every constituency. This is a seat, if you remember, that until recently had a majority of 42. It’s only because of Tulip’s hard work that it has become a seat with a decent majority.”
He added: “Nearer to December 12 you may see more movement of activists.”
The Mayor of London makes a new friend
The Conservatives insist they remain Labour’s biggest threat through candidate Johnny Luk, see left. David Stansell is standing for the Greens, while the Brexit Party are fielding candidate James Pointon.