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Finchley and Golders Green: Tactical voting in Barnet lived and died on social media and the Conservatives benefited

PUBLISHED: 13:52 13 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:52 13 December 2019

The Finchley and Golders Green count for the 2019 general election was held in Barnet. Conservative Mike Freer. Picture: Polly Hancock

The Finchley and Golders Green count for the 2019 general election was held in Barnet. Conservative Mike Freer. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Only a handful of people will have seen the reaction inside Finchley and Golders Green and Chipping Barnet's local Conservative associations when the Lib Dems and Labour confirmed they were standing in the seats.

While in an election campaign, parties rarely get overexcited, it wouldn't be surprising if the news was at least met with a wry smile.

As the results came in at the Allianz Park in Hendon on Friday morning, it became clear that the Labour and Liberal Democrat votes had divided the anti-Tory vote - and through that divide sailed Mike Freer and Theresa Villiers.

In the weeks before the election, there was talk of tactical voting by remain voters in the leafy enclave of north London to try to deny the sitting MPs the chance to return to parliament.

Leaflet after leaflet from the challenger parties went through the doors of houses in the two constituency, each insisting "only we can win".

In the end voters were left confused and the Conservative candidates benefitted.

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In Chipping Barnet, the Lib Dems' 5,932 votes would have more than seen Emma Whysall home safe and dry for the Labour Party if only a fifth of it had gone to her. Unlike in Finchley and Golders Green where they stood aside, the Green Party's candidacy also helped shore up Ms Villiers' position. In Chipping Barnet they got 1,288 votes - 76 more than Theresa Villiers majority.

Finchley and Golders Green was fiercely contested, with both parties doing their bit for deforestation by sending a ream of leaflets through households' letter boxes.

Nonetheless Mr Freer, like Ms Villiers, vastly increased his majority.

The Brexit Party standing down helped the Tories, but the refusal by Labour and the Liberal Democrats to cooperate at the top level in a quid-pro-quo meant both lost.

Ms Villiers' majority more than trebled, despite Labour activists in the run up claiming it was "too close to call" and sizing up a recount on the night.

While the esteem in which Mr Freer and Ms Villiers are held by voters was no doubt a factor, the chance was there for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to return MPs if they had worked together.

It turned out tactical voting was something that lived and died on social media, and seemingly didn't extend as far as the end of a pencil in a polling booth.

While national parties will always look to stand in every seat as a default, if both had been less proud and sought a pact then Luciana Berger and Emma Whysall could have been preparing for their first week in parliament for their new seats. Instead they will look on at a missed opportunity.

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