IN-DEPTH: Laura Edge fighting liberal corner in Finchley and Golders Green

In the last of our interviews with the three main candidates for Finchley and Golders Green, Katie Davies talks to Liberal Democrat nominee and Haringey councillor Laura Edge. TRIFLE isn t usually a dirty word in politics. Some phrases may be considere

In the last of our interviews with the three main candidates for Finchley and Golders Green, Katie Davies talks to Liberal Democrat nominee and Haringey councillor Laura Edge.

TRIFLE isn't usually a dirty word in politics. Some phrases may be considered beyond the pale in an election year - think spending cuts, tax hikes or expenses - but pudding is a subject which rarely feeds the appetite for controversy.

Yet for Laura Edge, who is aiming to become the first Liberal Democrat MP for Finchley and Golders Green, there's no room for dessert on the campaign trail.

The 30-year-old, who will stand down from her six years as councillor for Haringey's Stroud Green ward in May, isn't usually constrained by electoral taboos.


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During a lengthy conversation one Wednesday afternoon, she doesn't dodge the difficult topics, happily discussing everything from her party's proposed Mansion Tax to politics in the Middle East - two subjects where she may find herself at odds with many residents in this predominantly Jewish and affluent constituency.

But ever since a snide remark by a Town Hall opponent last year was seized upon by the national media, including Have I Got News For You?, trifle has been off the menu. The comment in question was made by Cllr Brian Haley, who referred to her as "very sweet and lightweight... a bit like a trifle" during a debate on bus fares.

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"I don't want to go down in political history as the one who was called trifle," she says. "I was really angry about it but he's apologised and moved on. I won't miss the council chamber but I am sure it is not much better in Parliament - the yaa-boo politics."

She has since forgiven Cllr Haley, an act of clemency that may have something to do with the fact he has since switched allegiances and is now a member of her own Liberal Democrats.

For Cllr Edge, her party is central to her politics. She is "a born and bred" Lib Dem whose father, a former councillor, had her "delivering leaflets from when she was knee high".

As such she has built a lot of relationships within the ranks and closest to home is with Hornsey and Wood Green MP, Lynne Featherstone.

"She is hugely inspiring and popular and quite a big inspiration to me personally," she explains.

Despite friends in high places, her bid to win is a tall order. She is running in a seat where the Liberal Democrats last time won just 17 per cent of the vote and 12 per cent in 2001.

On paper she has very little chance of electoral success and could end up with egg on her face.

To avoid an electoral meltdown she is banking on the failure of her two main rival parties who she believes are struggling to win over the people of Finchley and Golders Green.

"It was, although there's been a boundary change, a predominately Tory seat and now it's a Labour seat and is one of the most marginal in the country," she says.

"That to me shows that people are not particularly sure about either. They're swing voters. They are looking for something different which I think the Lib Dems offer.

"It's also about giving people a choice and not just giving up on people because they live somewhere that on paper you can't win. That is one of the vagaries of our awful electoral system and I don't think that parties should pander to that by just giving up."

The challenge is made tougher by the fact she is almost unknown in the constituency and running against the former council leader, Cllr Mike Freer and his opposition number at the Town Hall, Labour's Cllr Alison Moore.

She doesn't and has never lived in the boundary - moving from Finsbury Park to Stroud Green before becoming a councillor and now residing in Tufnell Park.

"I am an outsider but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. One of the candidates is the former leader of the council and one of them has worked very closely alongside the sitting MP. I don't think it is a bad thing to have somebody fresh and new."

Her fighting talk is backed up by a CV noticeably light on fluffiness.

She works as a legal aid housing solicitor in Hackney, where overcrowded homes are filled with as many tragic stories as people. Now, she wants to focus on raising the standards in those areas of Finchley and Golders Green which aren't as wealthy as the rest.

"It is easy to think of this as affluent suburbia but I was quite shocked when knocking some doors in Child's Hill - they were a lot worse than what I had seen in Haringey," she says.

"My experience is that where there are pockets of deprivation in affluent areas those people can end up being a lot more deprived than in a generally more deprived area.

"I very much hope and believe the Lib Dems will win the election in Haringey this time. For myself I am ready to move on. I just hope I've done a good job by the people of Stroud Green."

Her party plans to close the gap between rich and poor with the so-called Mansion Tax, which would see people with homes valued over �2million charged with a one per cent yearly tax.

"It's about fairness and I'm going to be up front about this," she says. "In an environment where we have to reduce public spending you have to ask people in those situations to pay more. There will always be people who don't think it's fair but I'm not going to apologise."

Civil liberties are also a cornerstone of the party. "What Labour has done has been absolutely atrocious," she says. "The state seems to be there to just bully, harass, record and spy on its citizens and it is not meant to be about that.

"I personally think a hung parliament is not only more democratic but I think it would change politics."

Though sympathetic to the people of Palestine and broadly critical of Israel's record, she says her Israeli relatives (her maternal grandmother is Jewish) remind her that we have to remember "the fear Israeli people live in".

But aggression isn't the answer.

"The political classes in Israel take the easy way out offering more security and being forceful but it is not going to work in the long term," she says.

With only a handful of weeks until the election, it remains to be seen whether such impassioned arguments will find favour with voters and enable Cllr Edge to make an impression in an area where the Lib Dems have traditionally struggled to make themselves heard.

She won't like me for saying so, but the proof will be in the pudding.

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