Thursday 6 May 2010

Council Elections: The Wards to Watch

At long last, the politicians have stopped talking. Now it is our turn to have our say. In Barnet, the media predict that the Conservatives will win all three Parliamentary seats but the Council elections might throw up a few surprise results.

In 2006, the Conservatives under Brian Salinger won the council with a majority of 11 seats - the biggest majority for over 12 years. With a predicted London-wide swing to the Tories of 6%, they will be looking to consolidate that position and perhaps win an even bigger majority.

But there are many factors which suggest that results might not go the way they plan. This is not a happy council. Under Lynne Hillan and her predecessor Mike Freer, the Conservatives have proven themselves to be incompetent, reckless, negligent and unprincipled. It is a party that has become arrogant and self obsessed, which has been at war with itself for 8 years with no sign of hostilities abating.

There are 11 independent candidates standing under the banner of the Resident’s Association of Barnet and they, together the other opposition parties, will be hoping that sufficient number of electors are aware of all the shenanigans at the Town Hall to take David Cameron’s advice and vote for change!

There are a number of key battle grounds.

Mill Hill: The LibDems previously held all three seats in Mill Hill but in 2006, they lost one to the Conservatives. The LibDems have been campaigning vigorously in this ward in an attempt to win the seat back, but the Conservatives hope that the national swing will bring them further gains. Cleggmania could well be a factor here and the council would certainly benefit if Rog T is elected.

High Barnet: This used to be a rock solid Conservative ward, but Duncan Macdonald won a seat for the LibDems in a by-election in December 2005 following the resignation of Kanti Patel. The Conservatives believed this was just a protest vote, but Duncan held the seat at the full election in 2006 with a swing to the LibDems. The Conservatives will be desperate to win that seat back but the LibDems have been campaigning hard in the area and hope to unseat Wendy Prentice and Bridget Perry who have been tainted by the wardens issue. This and Cleggmania could also prove decisive.

Underhill: This is another split ward, with two Conservatives and one Labour councillor. Formerly known as Arkley, it was previously a solid Labour seat but following boundary changes, the Conservatives won two seats in 2002 and held them in 2006. Conservative councillor Fiona Bulmer is not standing this time so there will be a loss of her personal vote. The other Conservative councillor Daniel Webb is barely known locally. Labour councillor and former Mayor Anita Campbell, on the other hand, is very popular in the area and is likely to be re-elected. In 2006 the vote was very close between the two parties and Labour believe that they can defy the national trend and win these seats back.

East Barnet: Previously a split Labour/Conservative ward, the Conservatives now hold all 3 seats, but the Residents Association of Barnet (RAB) are fielding 3 candidates and have been campaigning hard on local issues. Cllr Joanna Tambourides is very unpopular and is seen by many locals as arrogant and aloof. Despite having only been on the council since a by-election in 2007, Mrs Tambourides was recently promoted to the Cabinet proving that arse kissing, rather than ability, can get you ahead in life. The seat was formerly held by Olwen Evans who sadly died on Christmas Day 2006. Shortly before she died, Olwen told Don't Call Me Dave that the current Conservative Group was the worst she had ever known in over 25 years. She wasn’t wrong. In 2006, Labour came a very close second in this ward. The question is whether RAB will take votes from the Conservatives or Labour. If they take them from the Conservatives, Labour could re-take this ward.

Edgware: The Residents Association of Barnet are fielding one candidate in this area - Linda Edwards. Edgware is normally considered a safe Conservative seat, but following Brian Coleman’s attack on Mrs Edwards, all eyes will be looking to see whether this will translate into votes for her. If it does, who will be the Conservative to lose out? Will it be Finchley resident Helena Hart or new boy Darrel Yawitch who has upset hundreds of residents over his stance on a particularly sensitive planning issue?

Totteridge: This is a rock solid Conservative seat. They don’t count Conservative votes in this ward, they weigh them! Whilst there is little doubt that the Conservatives will hold this ward, the question is whether there will be a significantly reduced vote for controversial Mayor Brian Coleman. Coleman is planning a leadership challenge to Lynne Hillan but if his vote is reduced significantly, this would certainly dent his chances as it would prove conclusively that he has become an electoral liability.

In 2006, the turnout in Barnet was just 41.65%. Nearly 6 out of 10 residents took the view that voting made absolutely no difference, but the margin of victory in some wards was actually very small. If you want change in the Town Hall, there is only one way to achieve it. Get out and vote!