Tories prime Mike Freer to be party’s first MP in Hampstead since 1992
Jacob Rees-Mogg suggest votes will only need to be weighed to secure victory if boundary changes are approved
02 March, 2017 — By Richard Osley
MP Jacob Rees-Mogg with Hampstead Tories Claire-Louise Leyland, Judy Booth, Oliver Cooper and MP Mike Freer
CONSERVATIVES believe their long wait for an MP in Hampstead will soon be over if the boundary changes are ratified, as rank-and-file members were told this week general election votes may only need to be “weighed rather than counted” if Labour’s Tulip Siddiq is left exposed by a re-ordered constituency map.
Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer has already been primed to take on Ms Siddiq in a new constituency, which may see stronger Labour wards in Kilburn replaced by areas in Barnet which have traditionally shown more support for the Tories. Highgate would also be added under the proposals.
With his own seat likely to be fractured by the Boundary Commission changes, he is understood to have told members he would be ready to take on Ms Siddiq in a new Hampstead and Golders Green constituency. It is understood there is little appetite for any candidate from the Camden side of the border to try to stand in his way.
The anticipation of what may lie ahead was revealed at a branch dinner in Hampstead on Tuesday evening where Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexiteer backbench MP, was guest speaker.
“I’d just say how lucky you are going to be if the boundary changes go ahead. You have the chance of upgrading from Tulip to Mike,” he said. “That is just going to be a terrific advance for your community. You will be brilliantly represented. Mike is a superb member of Parliament, extremely friendly, helpful.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg at the Freemasons Arms
He added: “It’s really great to be supporting him and I know you will be, ensuring that his majority is so large at the next election that the vote is purely weighed rather than needing to be counted.”
His words came in the same week as the publication of the fine detail of submissions received by the Boundary Commission in response to proposed changes to even up constituency sizes. It revealed how Conservative activists had bombarded the Commission at the end of last year with messages backing the proposed changes, and had encouraged others to do the same.
Their submissions largely panned a Labour counter-proposal to keep Kilburn represented by a single MP, with critics claiming that they were suggesting breaking up Hampstead to do so. Labour’s alternative proposal would annexe Hampstead Town and Belsize ward to Holborn and St Pancras constituency but keep Frognal; they would also take on new wards in Brent rather than Highgate.
Residents had received a Tory leaflet drop pressing them to write to the Commission urging it not to allow Hampstead to be “broken in two”. It is understood that more submissions were made about the future of the Hampstead and Kilburn seat than any other neighbourhood during the first stage of consultation.
While the Conservatives count Frognal and Fitzjohns as a bedrock area in terms of council politics, and feel largely the same about Hampstead Town, the party has been searching for a general election win in Hampstead since 1992, the year Glenda Jackson first won for Labour.
In 2010, they came within 42 votes of winning, but the gap widened to 1,138 votes with Ms Siddiq’s victory in 2015, although the seat would still be regarded as a marginal even without boundary changes. The optimism at the “Blue Rosette” dinner, held in the conservatory rooms of the Freemasons Arms in Downshire Hill, Hampstead, follows mixed feelings about the effectiveness of the 2015 campaign.
Oliver Cooper tweets updates from Mr Rees-Mogg’s speech
That has been the subject of post-mortems and remains a source of internal frustration for those who felt candidate Simon Marcus failed to rekindle the enthusiasm conjured up by Chris Philp five years earlier. It is understood there will be requests to Central Office to devote more resources than at the last election, where the constituency did not receive a visit from then prime minister David Cameron and several other big hitters despite being listed at the top of the Tory target seats.
Mr Rees-Mogg said on Tuesday: “It’s a good time to be a Conservative, a remarkable time. It is as strong as it has been since the heyday of Margaret Thatcher, the dominance we have on the political scene and the pygmy nature of our opponents.”
He added: “The secret weapon we have is competence. We don’t go around with our hearts on our sleeves, we don’t go around telling everyone we love them. We just govern competently and we get on with the job.”
Simon Marcus and Tulip Siddiq did battle in Hampstead and Kilburn in 2015
In submissions to the Commission, several residents made comments about how the community in Hampstead must not be split by a political boundary.
Jessica Learmond-Criqui, the community campaigner who Conservative activists have suggested should stand for the party, either at a council or parliamentary level, told the Commission: “When John Constable painted scenes in Frognal and Fitzjohns, he was painting in Hampstead. He was not painting in Frognal and Fitzjohns. Most people understand the two areas to be Hampstead. Geographically and culturally, they are a sort of Siamese twins. They share the same issues.
She added: “Although MPs cannot deal with planning issues and crime and so on, they are a powerful voice in the community. In Hampstead, we do feel a bit marginalised by Camden Council, simply because it is a very big area and there are lots of issues to do with that, but we need a very strong voice in Parliament to represent Hampstead.”
Actor Tom Conti told the Commission: “Hampstead has been a London borough for over 1,000 years. It is no longer properly represented. In national government we are part of Kilburn, in local government, part of Camden. To split Hampstead would be to add insult to injury. It must be left a single unit.”
Lord Leonard Hoffman, meanwhile, supported changes which were “coherent” and respected local authority and historic boundaries. Further submissions are being taken as the next stage of the Boundary Commission consultation survey begins.