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Labour upbeat in Islington over election despite doorstep challenge

Activists struggle to convince EU voters in area that was previously safe territory for party

24 May, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Getting the vote out: Labour’s Siddo Dwyer

LABOUR activists knocking on doors in Highbury have faced a hard sell in a borough that is usually safe territory for their party.

Voters went to the polls yesterday (Thursday) for the EU elections, with results expected to be announced late on Sunday evening.

“For this election, there’s a different feeling,” said Labour member Valerie Graham, who lives off Hornsey Rise.

With a clipboard in hand with the names and addresses of past Labour voters, a group of around 30 activists – including some councillors – made their way through the streets in the shadow of the Emirates Stadium.

The Tribune watched how they were getting on. Ms Graham, a mature student studying international relations, said: “For the people who know Jeremy Corbyn there’s no shift, but for those who don’t really know him there is.

“Knocking on the door helps, with people swaying.”

Robert Tollemache and his wife Lorraine politely accepted a “Vote Labour” leaflet as they left their home off Highbury Park.

“I won’t be voting Labour,” said Mr Tollemache. “I want to be voting for a party who are unequivocally ‘remain’. I will be voting for the Green Party.”

Just over 75 per cent of residents in Islington voted to remain in the EU during the referendum in 2016.

Claude Moraes, who is seeking re-election as a Labour MEP, said: “My feeling is with the Labour Party we have the huge asset of the biggest membership. I’ve been out [door knocking] for six weeks now, and we’ve had no shortage of people going out, compared to the Conservatives or Liberals. We’ve had that advantage.

“My sense is that we’ve got a positive response from our core voters. The issue is whether they will come out or not.”

Mr Moraes, an MEP since 1999, added: “Some people aren’t clear on the [Brexit] policy. It takes explanation, but I think people like the idea of a confirmatory vote.”

 Valerie Bossman-Quarshie and Claude Moraes MEP 

Praful Nargund, a healthcare worker from Barnsbury, said Labour needed to “come out top to stop the far-right”, adding: “Importantly, there’s a recognition that what people or the media see as ambiguity or compromise is actually the Labour Party trying to get through the impasse.”

Other activists such as Siddo Dwyer said Labour “needed to be clearer” on whether it would call a second referendum over leaving the EU.

“Given the circumstances we are in now, I understand why certain voters don’t feel encouraged to vote,” he said.

“The least we can do for our voters is say: ‘This is our stance.’ Granted we may lose support in ‘leave’ voting areas, but if the party sticks to its message of anti-austerity while saying leave isn’t the answer we could pick up a lot more support.”

The Lib Dems have been campaigning hard in Islington, with party leader Sir Vince Cable joining campaigners outside Archway station on Wednesday.

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