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The real reason Hampstead receives so many visits from Tory ministers

13:00 25 July 2014

Andrew Mitchell MP with hostess Fiorella Massey and parliamentary candidate Simon Marcus. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Andrew Mitchell MP with hostess Fiorella Massey and parliamentary candidate Simon Marcus. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Take a stroll through Hampstead these past few weeks and you’d be forgiven for thinking the village had become a “Bohemian Grove” retreat for the Tory cabinet.

Jeremy Hunt tours the Institute of Immunology and Transplantation at the Royal Free. Pictured with Chris Burghes (chief executive of the Royal Free Charity), Prof Hans Stauss (head of the institute) and Cllr Simon Marcus. Picture: David BishopJeremy Hunt tours the Institute of Immunology and Transplantation at the Royal Free. Pictured with Chris Burghes (chief executive of the Royal Free Charity), Prof Hans Stauss (head of the institute) and Cllr Simon Marcus. Picture: David Bishop

The Ham&High can’t seem to go a week without being told there’s another Conservative “big-hitter” winging his way to the area in support of Tory parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, Cllr Simon Marcus.

With an astonishing five Tory grandees coming in the past month alone, the area has become awash with David Cameron’s “middle-aged white men”.

It began when (now former) education secretary Michael Gove joined Cllr Marcus on a visit to St Luke’s School in Kidderpore Avenue on July 4.

Just days later, chancellor George Osborne walked the streets of Kilburn (again with Cllr Marcus) and on July 10 the soon-to-be-sacked environment secretary Owen Paterson was touring Hampstead Heath’s ponds (Cllr Marcus in hand).

Soon followed a visit by “Plebgate” MP Andrew Mitchell and last Thursday health secretary Jeremy Hunt toured the Royal Free Hospital with Cllr Marcus.

With many MPs across the country struggling to attract even one high-profile politician to support their campaigns, the Ham&High asked Cllr Marcus why he has such overwhelming attention?

“I’m fighting the most marginal seat in the country, so the party has been committed to giving me all the support they can,” he said.

“They also see I’m a hard-working candidate, so ministers want to take time to come and see me.”

The seat is a key target for the Tories. But the Ham&High understands this is not the whole story.

Sources have revealed Conservative Campaign Headquarters is awash with quotas dictating the hours ministers must spend visiting constituencies in support of local candidates, which means choosing Hampstead has apparently become a “no-brainer”.

“Ministers love visiting Hampstead because it’s just 20 minutes away from their offices in Westminster,” the source revealed.

“They can fulfil their quota and be back in time for lunch. Given a choice between a long car trip to somewhere in the north or leafy Hampstead, it’s a no-brainer.”

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