Haringey Council election: All four main parties target key battleground Highgate ahead of polling day
Labour has run Haringey Council almost continuously for half a century but at the western fringes of the borough Highgate ward has evaded the party’s grasp.
Three Liberal Democrats have represented the ward for the last 12 years and the party has held a significant lead over other parties at every election since they took the seats from the Conservatives in 2002.
This is in contrast to the borough-wide political landscape where Labour has a significant majority over the Lib Dems, with 34 councillors to their rivals’ 21.
But Liz Morris – who is hoping to fill one of the Haringey seats left by long-standing Lib Dem councillors Rachael Allison and Neil Williams after their decision to step down at this local election – insisted the party is not “complacent”.
“We won by a comfortable margin at the last election,” said the 46-year-old marketeer. “However, we don’t take that for granted.
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“We are working exceptionally hard to keep Highgate Lib Dem. You can never be complacent in local politics,” added the mother-of-two, of Southwood Lane.
“Highgate is a super area but there are lots of things that need work here and lots of things that need to be changed and improved, which is what we want to do for the residents and businesses in Highgate.”
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Ms Morris will stand on a Lib Dem ticket alongside 58-year-old Clive Carter, a long-time local campaigner who works in desktop publishing, and Cllr Bob Hare, 63, who has served Highgate for 12 years.
The loss of councillors Allison and Williams after six and 12 years respectively – on top of a national ebb of support for the Lib Dems – could lead to a shake-up of political colours.
The other three main parties have all targeted Highgate ward, door-stepping homes every weekend in a bid to win residents’ votes.
Haringey Conservatives see Highgate as rightfully theirs, having held total control between 1986 and 1998.
Candidate Kay Carter believes 2014 could be the year the Tories take back seats.
“I think that Highgate residents feel let down by Haringey Council,” said the 41-year-old, who works for a Haringey community group for people with learning disabilities.
“I think when we are speaking to people on the doorstep, we are noticing a warming to the Conservatives and people have said ‘actually this year I’m going to vote Conservative’.
“We have put a lot of effort into finding out what residents think and have campaigned for the Hillcrest estate and about the school crossing [in North Hill].”
The mother-of-two, of Grosvenor Road, Muswell Hill, will be joined by 32-year-old software developer Antony Denyer and 28-year-old Celia Surtees, a policy adviser, in trying to win votes.
However, it seems the Tories have been slightly unnerved by Labour’s campaign for all three Highgate seats, with chairman of Hornsey and Wood Green Conservatives, Peter Forrest, writing to residents in March.
In his letter, he said: “Highgate has historically been a Conservative ward and Labour has never won here.
“Don’t wake up on May 23 to find this nightmare has become an awful reality.”
Labour may never have had a councillor elected in Highgate but first-time candidate John Woolf, 25, looks across the border to the Camden side of Highgate for proof of the party’s success in the area.
“We have two Labour representatives there, and with the Lib Dems nose-diving nationally, we are not complacent but we feel quietly confident,” said the PhD researcher, of Hornsey Lane.
“We are in a good position to represent the people of Highgate. There are a lot of things that people in Highgate care about, from recycling to pavements, but I think what people really want is a voice representing their issues and concerns on the council.
“Highgate is very much my home. We want to make sure that we have a strong representative to stand up for people across Haringey and in Highgate.”
Labour is not the only party hoping to cause an upset in Highgate.
The Greens, who currently have one councillor in Camden’s Highgate ward, have said the party could see its first Haringey councillors elected in Highgate next week.
Noel Lynch, 67, who runs The Green Room curiosity shop in Archway Road and is hoping to be elected in Highgate on a Green ticket, said support has been rapidly growing for the party in the west of the borough.
“In the 2012 Greater London Assembly elections, the Greens beat the Lib Dems in Highgate,” said the chairman of the London Green Party, who lives in Friern Park, North Finchley.
“Highgate is our secondary target seat – our main target seat is Ally Pally.
“I think it’s going to be a four-way split.”