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Hampstead and Kilburn: Third placed Lib Dems increase vote share but are squeezed out by ‘tactical voting’

Kirsty Allan says results show that strong 'liberal' vote to play for in north London next time

13 June, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Kirsty Allan campaigning in Queen’s Park

THE Liberal Democrat candidate who stood in Hampstead and Kilburn believes “tactical voting” led her party to be squeezed at the polls.

Kirsty Allan said her party had faced a tough task cutting through the message that the constituency was a two horse race. She said, however, the results showed that there was still a large liberal vote to play for in the area at future elections and that she was proud to have increased the party’s share of the vote.

Labour’s Tulip Siddiq eventually held the seat for Labour gaining an unexpectedly high majority of 15, 560 when the results were announced on Friday morning.

Ms Allan collected 4,100 votes, compared with the 3,039 received by LBC radio presenter Maajid Nawaz when he stood for the Lib Dems here two years ago. Her score translates to seven percent of the vote, up 1.4 percent.

“To see the vote go up in the circumstances of the election here makes me proud, and proud of the Camden Lib Dems who work so hard,” she said. “We definitely saw tactical voting develop during the campaign, and actually the narrative worked both ways. Both Labour and the Conservatives were telling people that if they voted Lib Dem then they would be letting the other side in.”

“I don’t think Labour will be able to do that next time, as it doesn’t look like the Conservatives stand a chance of getting in here whenever the next general election is, and I think it’s encouraging from the result that there’s clearly a large liberal vote to talk to ahead of next year’s council elections where we will be able to have conversations without people feeling like they have to vote tactically instead of for what they really feel they would like to.”

She added: “I do think Tulip was able to secure a personal vote. I spoke to someone on the doorstep who said he had decided to vote Labour in the end but after marking his ballot paper he wanted to put on the bottom ‘but not for Jeremy Corbyn’. That feeling, those issues around Jeremy Corbyn are still there, even if you can’t deny he had a good campaign and got people engaged. I would like to see Jeremy now show that he can be as good a leader as he can be a campaigner, because they are not the same thing. I wish he had shown even just a little bit of the campaigning that he has shown during this election before the EU referendum and who knows we might not be where we are if he had been able to mobilise the Labour vote in the same way. We need the leader of the opposition to show some grit, to stand up to Theresa May, to stand up to a hard Brexit, and we will be watching to see if he will now do that or be able to do that.”

She said her own party’s leader, Tim Farron, had faced a fight to get media coverage as the election was reported as a duel between Mrs May and Mr Corbyn. “At the start of the campaign I think we had a bit of momentum but we lost it a bit after the local elections and after that it was hard to cut through and get the same media attention that you need,” she said. “As a leader Tim is a bit like a marmite, as most political leaders are, people either took to him or they didn’t. Some people saw him as a straight-talking northern voice who said the right thing on Brexit, but other people were quite cruel and said things like he looks a little weird, and I have never gone in for judging people on what they look like. Those kind of comments are just unfair.”

While Labour voters have talked about how close Mr Corbyn apparently was to reaching Downing Street, Ms Allan suggested they should not make assumptions about whether an anti-Tory coalition really could have been stitched together, even if the parliamentary arithmetic was more favourable to such a scenario.

“We’ve been burned by coalition before and we’ve learned lessons as party,” she said. “One of the frustrating things is that some people have said in the last few days that we could’ve provided stability by going into coalition with the Conservatives again, but we’ve played with them before and found they do not play particularly clean. And, they support Brexit. In fact if you were to draw a Venn diagram of overlapping policies, only a very small if any bit of it, if any, would overlap between the Tories and the Lib Dems at the moment.”

She added: “We recognise we’ve made mistakes, we’ve apologised and we are now working back up a trust with the public. That will take some time but what I’ve noticed at this election is that people are willing to have the conversations, they want to talk through the issues with us again on the doorstep. In 2015, we took a hammering and people wanted to punish us, but the atmosphere has changed.”

In a joint post-election statement released this week, Ms Allan and Holborn and St Pancras candidate Stephen Crosher said: “Here in Camden we increased the number of votes and our vote share in both Hampstead and Kilburn and Holborn and St Pancras, and re-claimed our position as the third party in both seats. On a night that saw a significant nation-wide Labour surge, particularly in London, this was no small feat. We are immensely proud of the campaign we ran and, along with our growing and energised membership, have a strong base to continue to build on.”

The statement added: “We want to thank each and every person who put faith in our positive vision for a brighter future. From our plans to increase access to affordable housing and protect our NHS, to fighting for our local schools and cleaning up our environment, the result shows that liberal values are strong and resilient in Camden. Our work is just beginning. At a time of deep uncertainty, in which our politics is increasingly volatile and the Conservative government grows more unstable by the day, liberalism is needed now more than ever. We are looking ahead to important elections for Camden Council in May 2018, and any others that may be on the horizon, and we’ll be back out continuing to provide our community with the strong, liberal voice that it deserves.”

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