In the latest in our series of blogs on the forthcoming local elections in May, Client Executive, Rupuk Patel, takes a look at the London Borough of Barnet.
Barnet borders Hertfordshire and is a real mix of countryside and urban living, hence why its politics is, for a better use of a term, all over the place. I also share an affection for Barnet. It’s a great borough, friendly people, very good late-night kebab shops (falafel for my vegetarianism) and is always a hotly contested borough at local elections. This time round, it’s all eyes on Barnet.
The Jewish community
Barnet has a large and active Jewish community, and one in five of all Jews in England and Wales is a Barnet resident. The Jeremy Corbyn-era was traumatic for the community, and antisemitism is still being associated with the party in red. One could argue that Labour has no chance in Barnet due to this, but that would be wrong.
Keir Starmer has done an enormous amount of work in trying to root out antisemitism in the party. On the ground, it appears that this has gone down well, with a number of mainstream Jewish candidates coming from the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), including Ella Rose and Liron Velleman. The significance of their inclusion is that these young activists are respected in their community and have been singled out as potential future community leaders. It is a tall order for Ella Rose to win in Whetstone, which is a Conservative stronghold, but her inclusion as a candidate is a significant step in the right direction for the party.
‘No more development’
The Lib Dems, whilst an afterthought in some boroughs, have a chance to challenge in a number of seats from the Conservatives under a ‘no more development’ approach. The recent result in Chesham and Amersham has had a ripple effect across North London boroughs, and the Conservatives are probably feeling the heat of this. With considerable development happening in Colindale and potentially in Brent Cross, the Conservatives may be on the backfoot here.
The Conservatives, feeling this heat, have recently claimed that Labour will ‘close roads and fine drivers’ and have also claimed that Labour ‘hate motorists. This is due to a growing trend of Labour councils to introduce Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTN’s). Whilst a perfectly good campaigning point, this may not be convincing Barnet voters.
It is believed that the ward boundary changes in Barnet will help Labour more than the Conservatives, and even potentially help the Lib Dems. The creation of two new wards, Colindale North and Colindale South, are obvious targets for Labour and the Lib Dems. Large development quarters, and an apparent disregard by the Conservatives to tackle traffic problems going in and out of Colindale: easy election platform I say. There are other wards that could be in play, and could spell the downfall for the Conservatives:
- Garden Suburb – currently two Conservatives, one Liberal Democrat – target for the Liberal Democrats
- West Hendon – currently three Conservatives, but Labour is pushing hard to reclaim their former seat
- High Barnet – currently three Conservatives, but Labour is fielding Emma Whyshall, the former Parliamentary candidate for Chipping Barnet, in this ward. It is likely she will make the sitting councillors nervous.
The London Borough of Barnet will be one of the most watched councils on election night. A bastion of Conservatism under attack, with Labour and the Lib Dems both vying for political advantage. The dynamic of this borough is fascinating, and we are as not convinced this is clear cut as people think. However, this is North London, and stranger things have happened north of the river…