CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Neck and neck? Tulip Siddiq holds Hampstead and Kilburn with five-figure majority

Election contest which was supposed to be on a knife-edge ends with huge margin of victory

09 June, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Tulip Siddiq and Keir Starmer

TULIP Siddiq was this morning (Friday) returned as the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn after claiming one of the most sensational election victories in Camden’s political history.

She was supposedly in a fight for survival but walked out of the counting room at the Somers Town Sports Centre with an astonishing 15,560 majority – the largest margin of victory since the constituency was created in 2010. Her 34,464 votes dwarfed the second-placed Tories, who came in with 18,904.

Ms Siddiq told the New Journal that Labour’s election pledges had been a hit with voters.

“People really liked the manifesto,” she said. “On the doorstep, the minute it came out, things changed. It showed the difference between a well thought out, costed manifesto, and an arrogant one from the Tories, without any numbers and policies which were damaging to our elderly and our youngsters. There wasn’t one section of society that they didn’t attack in their manifesto.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s party had promised in its manifesto to build a million new homes, including 100,000 social homes a year, scrap university tuition fees, hire 10,000 new police officers, reverse cuts to schools funding and ban zero-hours contracts. To pay for the promises, Labour said it would raise corporation tax and put a “Robin Hood” charge on financial transactions.

“There’s no doubt people said to me that they were voting for me personally as an independent voice but I’m not so arrogant to think that it’s all down to me and part of it is people voted for Labour’s values of fairness and social justice,” Ms Siddiq said.

Labour won in Hampstead and Kilburn by just 42 votes in 2010 and Ms Siddiq was only able to extend the party’s advantage over the Conservatives to 1,138 at the last general election, two years ago. This meant she was named in a list of 20 target seats for the Tories as Theresa May called a snap election at the end of April, hoping to win a massive majority in the House of Commons ahead of Brexit negotiations.

UKIP decided not to field a candidate against her on the basis that they did not want to water down the prospect of an MP who voted against triggering Article 50 from losing her seat. As Labour held its ground across the country, Ms Siddiq said: “This has been the biggest mistake of Theresa May’s political life.”

She thanked Green and Lib Dem voters who she said had “lent” their votes to help defeat the Tories. “I had numerous people contact me who said, ‘I’ve always voted Green and Liberal Democrats but I’m voting for you this time’. I hope I keep their votes but whether I do or not I’m grateful they lent me their vote this time,” she said.

The Liberal Democrat vote actually increased slightly, and there was talk at the count that they had taken some votes off Tory voters dismayed at Britain’s departure from the EU.

Ms Siddiq added: “Theresa May massively underestimated the public, to just go and launch an election campaign with two slogans, ‘strong and stable’ and ‘Brexit means Brexit’. This doesn’t mean anything to people in Hampstead and Kilburn. People are worried about cuts to schools and adult social care, investment in the NHS and the lack of housing – she didn’t answer any of those questions and you can’t expect to become Prime Minister without giving any detail about what this will mean for people’s lives.”

Challenger Claire-Louise Leyland, the leader of the Conservatives at Camden Council, was down 3,935 on the Tories’ score last time. She had started the campaign as a 1/10 favourite with some bookmakers, with Labour MPs around the country at one stage being warned that not even a 10,000 majority might be enough to protect them from the meltdown the Tories were hoping for. But as each week of the contest passed, her price drifted. Ms Leyland’s supporters said she would have gained more votes if the campaign had been longer. Even Tory activists in the constituencies were caught by surprise by Ms May’s decision to go to the country, after repeatedly saying she would not.

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