May 18 2013 Latest news:
by Flora Drury
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The Tories have thrown down the gauntlet in what looks set to be one of the closest-run fights of the 2015 general election – the battle for Hampstead and Kilburn.
Conservative party co-chairman Grant Shapps confirmed yesterday that the seat, held by Labour’s Glenda Jackson since 1992, is their top target as he officially launched candidate Simon Marcus’s election campaign.
Ms Jackson – who has already announced she will not contest the seat again – beat her Conservative rival by just 42 votes in the 2010 election, making it the closest run battle in England.
This time, the Tories are determined to win the seat and have outlined a campaign based on “results”.
Mr Marcus – chosen as the candidate last month – was joined by MP Mr Shapps as he launched his campaign more than two years before the polls are set to open and before Labour has even selected a candidate to run against him.
Indeed, it was a measure of the importance the Tories are placing on the seat that Mr Shapps –one of the most influential people within the Tory hierarchy – was accompanying Mr Marcus, who was elected to Camden Council in a by-election just last year.
Mr Shapps told the Ham&High: “This is one of our 40 target seats – one of the ones we absolutely want to win and also the one with the smallest majority to overturn. So yes, I would say, in which case, it is [our top seat].”
Hampstead-born Mr Marcus, 40, said he was not cowed by the pressure, however. “I welcome it,” he said, admitting that he was “quietly confident”.
This is despite the unpopularity of fellow-Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s decision to close Hampstead and West Hampstead’s police stations and Belsize Park Fire Station – leaving some fearing the area will be left without public services.
Mr Marcus said: “I think what people want is to see someone in that situation who is getting a result, and, as you know, what I’m trying to do in this difficult situation is get a result.
“People do not want empty promises and big ideals.
“What I’m fighting for is to replace those police stations with a base, and what I am trying to campaign for is to get free schools into this area so that people don’t have to pay for education.
“What I am campaigning for is a vibrant high street.
“I think if people see the results, they will vote for you. It is as simple as that.”
He also has the complete backing of his party.
Mr Shapps, who said: “If I had to text book who you would want to fight for the community, it would be someone who lives in the area and, not only that, was born in the area.
“Simon is a really nice guy, and people immediately respond to him positively.
‘‘He has a total focus on the community first.”