Hampstead and Kilburn: Race for second showed a good night for the Conservatives and Lib Dem disappointment
PUBLISHED: 13:55 13 December 2019
In the end it proved to be the battle for second place that was the most interesting part of the election night in Camden.
Bullish claims from Conservatives in the lead-up to the election that they were "throwing the kitchen sink" at Hampstead and Kilburn, gave way to an admission on the night that the party would be happy to cling on to second place.
It's the position the party has occupied in every election in the new seat since its formation in 2010.
Yet the Liberal Democrat campaign included a flurry of leaflets, a visit from the party's leader early in the campaign and there seemed to be a resurgence in support.
Activists seemed convinced they were likely to take a good chunk of the Tory vote and capitalise on Labour dragging its feet before adopting a second referendum position that in the end cost it votes outside the capital. It was also thought the Lib Dems might be the electoral beneficiaries of concerns about antisemitism in the Labour Party.
And they did gain more than 9,000 votes compared to 2017. But Tulip Siddiq's majority was only 1,400 down on the high-water mark for her party in 2017.
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It seems that despite a campaign that was made for the Lib Dems, and an energetic local candidate in Matt Sanders, the 13,121 votes this time around might be their own high-water mark.
It was always unlikely to seriously challenge Ms Siddiq, but to finish in third nearly 15,000 votes behind will be disappointing.
As for the Conservative Party, Johnny Luk finishing in second place will be regarded as a triumph - even if the party has shed 5,000 voters since 2017. Early signs at the count settled nerves that they would slump into third place.
The 13,892 Mr Luk won looks to be the party's core vote in the constituency, especially in remain-heavy Hampstead and Kilburn, and an area where Boris Johnson isn't flavour of the month.
While Tory activists and councillors from Camden flocked to Chipping Barnet to ultimately help save Theresa Villiers' seat with an increased majority, Mr Luk's campaign was run from the printer in Heath Hurst Road and the video editing software on his mobile phone.
Even with that, he still finished second. The party will be pleased to have a base to build on for 2024.
As for the Lib Dems, there might be some soul searching about how the party can improve on their result.