TIM WALKER looks at how Labour votes could keep Dominic Raab in his Esher and Walton seat, and how Lib Dem votes could unseat Labour’s Rosie Duffield in Canterbury.
With Hugh Grant, Gina Miller, Lord Heseltine and Alastair Campbell, among so many others, hitting the campaign trail, Mandrake decided this was no time to be a-bed.
First stop was Esher and Walton where Monica Harding is fighting the seat for the Lib Dems. It’s a classic situation where Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to stand down his candidate risks gift-wrapping the seat for the Tory Brextremist Dominic Raab. The tactical voting organisation Remain United has Labour at the time of writing on a projected 14% vote share, the Tories’ 43% and the Lib Dems’ 41%.
“This seat was a Conservative stronghold and is now a marginal,” says Monica. “There’s an acceptance, supported by polling, that Labour can never win here. Lots of Labour and Conservatives members are pledging their votes for me for this election. With this surge of support we can unseat Raab. I’m the pro-Europe, Remain candidate in Esher and Walton.”
She adds: “People here are cross. Their views have been dismissed over the last three years. This is a place where consensus-based politics matters. The Conservative Party’s swing to the right and the takeover by the Eurosceptic fringes of the party, the prorogation of parliament, the expulsion of the 21 moderate Conservative MPs, and the recklessness of a no-deal have gone down like a lead balloon. Voters in Esher and Walton want a return to ‘good sense’ politics and the majority think Brexit is bad for the economy and the country.”
On to Finchley where, once again, Jeremy Corbyn is doing his bit for the Tories by standing a candidate with no chance against the Lib Dems’ Luciana Berger. Mike Freer, the Tory incumbent, has a projected vote share of 42%, compared to 32% for the Lib Dems and a desultory 18% for the Labour no-hoper Ross Houston.
“We’re coming a close second – there’s everything to play for,” says Luciana. “It’s of course unfortunate that Labour is fielding a candidate here, but tactical voting can make the difference.”
Un-startlingly, the high Jewish vote in the constituency has hit Labour hard, with the Jewish Chronicle reporting a quarter of local voters are citing the party’s anti-Semitism problem as a major factor in deciding them not to vote for them.
In the weird and wacky world of this election, the voters of Canterbury barely batted a collective eyelid when they received a letter emblazoned with the face of a Lib Dem telling them to vote Labour. I’m afraid it was me. “I urge you with all of my heart to vote for Rosie Duffield,” I wrote.
It scarcely resulted in a backlash from the local Lib Dem association, who had me as their parliamentary candidate until I stepped down last month to avoid splitting the Remain vote. I received one email from a local activist, who told me she’d thought better of me. I’m afraid I will always be a realist. The projected vote shows it’s still tight: Tories on 41%; Labour; 49% and the Lib Dems, who alas chose to parachute in a replacement candidate after I quit, on 9%.
Mandrake went on to meet two principled former Tories now running as independents – Dominic Grieve in Beaconsfield and David Gauke for South West Herts – and it was striking how many people they had on their teams. “I had 150 campaigning for me last Saturday,” says Dominic, whom I accompanied on the doorsteps.
Doorstep one: Leave voters who were now disillusioned. Doorstep two: a Lib Dem who was cross with their candidate Rob Castell for stepping down, but willing to vote for Grieve. Doorstep three: “Still thinking it all over.”
For all his skills returning dogs, Grieve has an uphill struggle with a projected 16% vote share. Boris Johnson’s old friend Joy Morrissey is on 64% for the Tories, and Labour, once again doing their bit for the Tories, on a pitiful 17%.
I caught up with David Gauke in the car park of Berkhamsted Waitrose where his popularity was obvious, but, as he joked, if he couldn’t win in a Waitrose car park, where, honestly, could he? The projected vote shares tells an all-too-familiar story about the stubbornness of Labour and the Lib Dems. The Tories are on 41%; Labour 20%; Lib Dems: 14% and Gauke 22%.