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Camden News - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 26 November 2009
Paul ver Bruggen, Ed Fordham Glenda Jackson, Beatrix Campbell and Chris Philp at last Thursday’s hustings in Hampstead
Paul ver Bruggen, Ed Fordham Glenda Jackson, Beatrix Campbell and Chris Philp at last Thursday’s hustings in Hampstead
Glenda: she won’t be beaten without a fight

Labour’s veteran MP looked bullish as she lined up against her opponents – and their supporters – in the latest Meet The Candidates event

SEVERAL months to election day, they start the hustings early in Hampstead. It’s a sign there’s a lot to play for.
Nevertheless a bullish performance from Glenda Jackson at this latest Meet The Candidates session gave a timely reminder that she isn’t beaten yet.
She looked out to demonstrate the assured style of a candidate enhanced by 17 years’ experience as a sitting MP. She seems determined to show every person who thought she wouldn’t run again for Parliament – and there were plenty of them – just how wrong they were about her prospects in the new Hampstead and Kilburn constituency.
This was a night where few floating voters will have made their minds up and Labour members will be happy at how Ms Jackson carefully navigated this audience, which initially seemed determined to reserve their applause for her opponents only.
Certainly, declared supporters of Conservative candidate Chris Philp were circling at the back of the Unitarian chapel in Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, on Thursday evening, and they included some local councillors and well-known party activists.
Ed Fordham, the Lib Dem candidate, may have seen a few friendly faces across the room as well. It’s not unusual for these events to descend into a show of strength with party politicos packing the pews and activists disguised as Joe Public trying to grab the roving mic in an attempt to steer the debate. Thankfully, Paul ver Bruggen, from the Hampstead Scientific Society, the hosts, was firm enough to put a stop to most of this.
Besides, Ms Jackson’s election rivals could of course argue: well, why didn’t Glenda tell her own supporters to turn up and pack the hall herself? Is it because Labour is a completely spent force in this area?
Ms Jackson seemed happy to let her answers do the talking and a lethargic drip drip of applause grew more enthusiastic as the night wore on.
The new face was Beatrix Campbell, the campaigning writer recently selected by the Green Party. She was the only member of this Question Time-style panel to call for British troops to be brought home from Afghanistan.
Ms Jackson has beaten some high-profile faces in the past, such as Oliver Letwin for instance, but since winning here in 1992, she has never had so many rivals breathing down her neck, harrying her at every turn.
Yet, amid the pressure, she refused to take the bait on Thursday. There was that odd familiar scowl when Mr Philp was talking – although talking may not be the right word for it. His answers about how he campaigned locally to save police stations and to protect hospital stroke units were delivered like a speech bellowed out across Trafalgar Square. He is growing in confidence.
But there were no frantic interruptions from Ms Jackson, no obvious signs of desperation.
In the past, she has seemed just as willing to criticise government policy as to support it. On Thursday, she appeared more comfortable with her party’s decision-making than in a long while.
“It would be a betrayal of the Afghan people if we left now,” she said, defending the continued British presence. “I can understand the grief and the anxiety but we can’t simply walk away now.”
And as the debate rumbled on, you might have been forgiven for thinking that Mr Philp was the man the others thought they needed to jump on. A kind of tenuous anti-Tory alliance briefly formed in the answers to some questions. Mr Fordham repeatedly reminded the audience of the economic crisis overseen by the Tories in the 1990s and said he remembered his parents’ home being repossessed at the time.
“Why should people trust you now with the economy?” asked Mr Fordham, before once again reminding the hall about all the rave reviews his own party’s finance spokesman Vince Cable has picked up during the current recession. There was a bit of a groan from the 150 people inside, as if to say, “he’s not playing the Vince Cable card again is he?”, but Mr Fordham cracked on. His aides filmed his every word for snippets on YouTube.
Meanwhile, Ms Campbell, raging about where rampant capitalism had got us, also looked like she felt most comfortable hitting Mr Philp. However, her unique selling point – the belief that environmental policies must take precedence to avoid global disaster – seemed a little lost against opponents who claim climate change is among their priority issues.
Looking left and right, Mr Philp may not have felt too popular, but it was the people in front that will have bothered him most. He, after all, will not mind being the shared target if it means the others split their share of the vote in the process, thus opening up his path to parliament.
The race nonetheless remains too close to call.

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AS the organizer of this event - the Hampstead Community Question Time - I would like to say it was organized by the Hampstead Lecture Society, not the Hampstead Scientific Society. The Hampstead Scientific Society do however conduct a series of scientific lectures in the crypt at St John's church and are wardens of the observatory on Hampstead Hill which is open Fri/Sat evenings throughout the winter when the skies are clear.
Charles Groome


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