Wednesday 7 June 2017

Who will win in the constituency of Hendon

On Friday, we might all end up with a new MP. I live in the constituency of Hendon. My previous MP was Dr Matthew Offord. There has been speculation in the Evening Standard that he might "be in trouble". Offord was elected in 2010 with a wafer thin majority of 106. He increased this in 2015 to several thousand, in what was a surprise result for many on the left who assumed he'd lose to the previous incumbant Andrew Dismore. The bookies are having none of this. The current odds on Offord retaining his seat at Paddy Power are 1/7 against. I've had several coversations with the local Labour team, who say that they are seeing considerably more enthusiasm for their campaign than in 2015. The Lib Dems are also reporting a large rise in canvass returns, especially around Mill Hill following the car crash hustings performance of Matthew Offord, who managed to upset a large section of the audience, with his rather "clumsy" response to a local widow asking about why he hadn't responded to her deceased husbands requests for help opposing changes to benefit payments for widows.

It is fair to say that Offord is a rather difficult fit for a cosmopolitan seat like Hendon. Whilst the constituency voted heavily remain, Offord is a hard line Brexiteer (something he has rather clumsily tried to disguise in the campaign). He is a staunch opponent of same sex marriage, citing his evangelical faith as prohibiting him from supporting equality for people in same sex relationships. He has a long record of doing very little in the Borough. In a recent interview with the Hendon Times, he reiterated this by saying "People who know me, know I never promise anything". The sole reason for voting for him, according to the interview is that he'll "Do his best". In 2010 he claimed he'd champion the Green Belt and fight tooth and nail to save it, now he simply says that it is an issue for the Council. As the council has recently and rather controversially approved a plan to concrete over 17 acres of Green Belt, it seems that if you want an MP who cares about the environment, then Matthew is very much not your man. At the Edgware Church hustings, when asked about transport and pollution, his sole idea was to try and encourage the use of electric cars, whilst his opponents all spoke about cycling and better public transport.

His Labour opponent, Mike Katz is 10/3 at Paddy Power. Katz is a pro remainer, supports marriage equality and is keen to improve education budgets and NHS services in the Borough. He has been keen to distance himself from Jeremy Corbyn and is a bigwig in the Jewish Labour movement. Mike tells me that he is quietly confident, especially having had a very good response from the younger voters. He told the Hendon Times "If you’re worried about direction of the UK in Brexit negotiations, cuts to schools and the NHS, you need us."

The Lib Dems are 150/1 at Paddy Power. Alasdair Hill, the Lib Dem candidate is a veteran of the Save Barnet Libraries campaign and the Remain campaign. Hill has reported a large number of former Lib Dems returning to the fold. He has also spoken of many Tories who can't vote for Offord due to his anti equality stance and support for Brexit pledging support. Hill says that many have told him that they will be voting for him to demonstrate to the local Tories that their vote cannot be taken for granted, having a divisive character as their candidate. I asked Alasdair if he genuinely thought he could win. He said that recent election results have shown that nothing can be taken for granted. Alasdair also said that many local Conservatives had told him that the 2010-15 coalition had persuaded them that Lib Dems were a grown up party, who made a positive contribution to government. He is hoping that moderate people on both sides of the political divide will recognise that far from being  a "coalition of chaos", the Lib Dems actually make for good, stable government. I asked him who he would prefer a coalition with. Alasdair played a straight bat and said that would depend on what sort of a program could be agreed with any partners and Tim Farron wasn't looking at coalitions. He said that he believed the Lib Dems had an excellent and honest manifesto.

My view? I think Offord will get in again, with 1,500 majority, but what do I know. I personally would be far more happy with an MP who reflects my views and the views of the majority of the constituency, but I fear that people don't vote for the man or with the locality in mind in a general election. I'd certainly urge any Conservatives to consider whether they really want to support such views tomorrow.

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