The independent London newspaper

EU elections: Labour activists find it tough on doorstep

Camden's dominant party find 'most testing conditions since Iraq War'

23 May, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Lib Dem councillor Luisa Porritt in Archway with Sir Vince Cable yesterday (Wednesday)

LABOUR activists have told the New Journal they have faced the most testing doorstep conditions in Camden for more than a decade after knocking at the homes of voters desperate to stay in Europe.

Polling stations are open until 10pm tonight (Thursday) for European Union elections, a ballot which nobody knew for certain would even take place until a few weeks ago due to the chaotic Brexit negotiations at Westminster.

Canvassers for Labour have in recent years enjoyed campaigning in a fertile north London territory where they hold massive parliamentary majorities and a vice-like grip on Camden’s council chamber.

But some activists who have spoken on condition of anonymity to the New Journal say they are being turned away this time, albeit often with a polite apology. The Liberal Democrats and the Greens look to be the main beneficiaries.

“You get told it’s just for this election, but it still doesn’t feel good,” said one party member who has been part of the local team for nearly two decades. “We lost the council in 2006 when we were fighting against the Iraq War. With this, whatever we do locally in Camden, people are voting on what they think of Brexit.” Another said: “We’ve had people who always come out and doorknock who won’t do it this time. Liverpool were 3-0 down to Barcelona so anything is possible in Europe, but this has been hard work.”

One of the difficulties for Labour teams has been that they have been unable to arm themselves with localised leaflets, while it has been suggested the print run of material has been limited compared to previous elections in Camden.

Some are already looking ahead to next year’s London elections as a test as to whether the head­aches on the doorstep will last longer than today’s voting.

If the Lib Dems are able to seize ground in areas such as Camden with their pro-EU stance, it could pave the way for Councillor Luisa Porritt to win a seat in Brussels. The party does not have an MEP for the London region, but opinion polls, including one conducted by YouGov yesterday (Wednesday), have indicated that this time it could win as many as three seats. Cllr Porritt, elected to the council for the first time last year, is third on the Lib Dem list and will be waiting nervously to see if she has been elected when votes are counted on Sunday afternoon.

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning, she was campaigning with party leader Sir Vince Cable in Archway – a pointed choice of location in Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North constituency.

A breakdown of the YouGov poll also suggested the Greens’ vote share is increasing. In other parts of the country, all polls point to support for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and a testing day for the Conservatives.

Another Labour veteran from Camden warned: “We are being told we have to beat the Brexit Party, by somehow sort of supporting Brexit, which is understandably confusing.”

Other Labour organisers are upbeat about the party’s message and insist the party has been honest with voters in an attempt to break the stalemate.

Murad Qureshi, one of Labour’s candidates in London, said: Our core vote is holding up well in places like east London. I am not going to deny that in other areas there needs to be some explaining of Labour’s position, but I think it is quite straightforward. The House of Commons is deadlocked, the two parties have held talks but not found a way forward, so the only way out of this is to have another referendum.”

He added: “Labour has been the only party which has tried to talk to both sides and been responsible enough to try and bring people together. It’s all very well being one side against the other, but the referendum has caused untold damage dividing people.”


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