Monthly Archives: February 2010

Tamsin Omond: Eco-Queen – MP

She’s a Cambridge graduate with a first class degree in English, she’s scaled the House of Commons to protest against a third runway at Heathrow, and she still fancies the idea of one day becoming a priest, but her most significant achievement could well take place this summer, as Tamsin Omond stands for election here in Hampstead & Kilburn.

Miss Climate Change

Having made a name for herself as a passionate, savvy, even sexy climate change activist, she now wants to take on the Man from the inside. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Tamsin is a one-cause candidate, and it has already been pointed out that she may actually do both herself and the Green party – with which she is in no way affiliated – more harm than good, by splitting the green vote.

It has also been said already, with reason, that realistically she and her new Commons Party stand little chance of victory in the upcoming election. It is interesting that she chose this constituency, her long-time home, above all others nationwide to stand in, when she potentially could have found a seat more sympathetic to her cause. She must feel that voters in the key marginal seat of Hampstead & Kilburn will be sympathetic enough. Either that, or she wants to create a stir by standing against a high-profile, but vulnerable Glenda Jackson.

Voting for an independent candidate – which Tamsin effectively is, despite running under the ‘Commons Party’ banner – is a risky strategy. Even if the candidate is successful, their voice in parliament is very small, and their power to effect real change not particularly significant. It can be a positive thing when the independent is a bastion of the community, representing local interests on a major scale, but in this case it is clear that Tamsin has a one-track-mind, and so her green cause would probably take precedent over other pressing matters.

Still, it will be interesting to see whether this is a serious move into grown up politics for the young activist, or merely an expensive marketing ploy for her eco-friendly cause.

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Interview: Chris Philp

Social networking sites are strange and wonderful things. But whereas for you and I they’re a way of keeping in touch with friends, or promoting our truly excellent blogs, for the modern politician, they’re a key campaign feature. They provide a quick and easy way to engage with (potential) constituents, addressing their concerns in an instant, and allow the dissemination of campaign messages around the clock. Facebook it was that helped me set up an interview with Ed Fordham. Then Twitter, somewhat unexpectedly, brought me tidings from one Chris Philp, Conservative PPC for Hampstead & Kilburn. Chris had read the interview with his Lib Dem rival and felt a little aggrieved by some of Ed’s comments.  For balance, he asked, would I like to interview him? For balance, I agreed.

The Wet Fish Cafe on West End Lane played host to our meeting. Chris had called to warn that he would be late. He arrived before I did. Throughout the interview, he sat comfortably on the other side of our small table by the wall, legs crossed and top two buttons undone on his tie-less shirt. We drank tea.

Chris Philp

Chris is a man prepared. All my questions, be they on policy, background, campaigning or anything else, were answered quickly, eloquently and with confidence. He has an impressive grip on facts and figures, which he can pull out to back up any of his points. I often felt, however, that he was drawing on a mental database of stock answers for anticipated questions. I don’t hold this against Chris – if you’re asked similar questions everyday, you’ll give similar answers – but it did give proceedings a more ostensibly on-the-record feel than I would have liked.

Still, Chris spoke openly about his motivations for entering the political sphere; a few years a go now, his father was taken to hospital, and whilst there contracted the MRSA ‘super-virus’. This was his first insight into what he saw as being the Labour government’s (flawed) centralised approach to running public services, and it led to his becoming involved in campaigning, eventually joining the Conservative party and being elected as a councillor for Camden. He was forthwith in revealing that he did not vote Conservative in 1997, as the previous Tory government had not properly funded public services. He now believes, however, that although these  services are better funded than they once were, they are poorly run, and it will take a Conservative government to fix this.

Let’s not forget the reason for the interview: the accusations made against him during my prior interview with his election rival, Ed Fordham. Chris seemed genuinely shocked by Ed’s comments, saying, “I thought [his remarks] were just totally inaccurate, intemperate and uncalled for, and not the kind of thing you would expect from someone who is putting themselves forward for serious office.”

On the electoral figures used by the Lib Dems that put them 474 votes away from victory, Chris said, “the figures that [Ed Fordham] likes quoting are five years old, which he probably forgot to mention, and are based on a sort of theoretical projection. The figures that we look at are recent and are based on real votes. It annoys me, frankly, when the Lib Dems use these very old notional figures, because I don’t think it gives an accurate reflection of the mathematics of the seat.”

During the 'save the Royal Free's stroke unit' campaign

As for the accusation that the Tories campaigned to save a stroke unit at the Royal Free that was never actually under threat, Chris obviously disagrees. He tells me that the Royal Free was recognised as having one of the best emergency stroke units in the country, and that the ‘door-to-needle’ time at both the old facility in Hampstead and the new acute unit at UCLH is exactly the same, at 35 minutes, and thus for most people the journey time to the hospital will now be greater, but for no added benefit. He adds, “the Lib Dems were wrong to fail to support the Royal Free’s emergency stroke unit, and I think the reason that Ed used such intemperate and frankly immature language was he knows that he’s on the wrong side of the issue.”

The one thing that surprised me over the course of the interview was Chris’ assertion that the election in Hampstead & Kilburn would be a two horse race between the Tories and Labour, writing the Lib Dems off entirely – bearing in mind that the new mystery candidate had not yet put up posters in Hampstead. This is despite the Lib Dems being the bookies’ favourites, and despite the re-drawn constituency boundaries potentially favouring them. This is a key marginal seat, of great importance to all the major parties, hence the newsletters, billboards and flyering from all comers. But for Chris there is only one choice: “If you want to get rid of Gordon Brown, then voting Conservative is the only way to do that, both here and nationally.”

The new Hampstead & Kilburn constituency

Chris insists that his campaign is not personal, but some of his comments show a clear understanding that this is a contest, and there’s no use in playing nice: “One thing that Ed probably didn’t find time to mention is that he’s targeting different communities with different messages.” Chris tells me that he is referring to the fact that Lib Dems in Kings Cross have sent out leaflets iterating Nick Clegg’s calls for the disarmament of Israel, a ‘rogue state’, whereas Ed Fordham has distributed leaflets in Hampstead, printed partially in Hebrew, saying that he’s a friend of Israel. Chris appears to challenge Ed, saying, “he hasn’t stood up and said Nick Clegg is wrong on the issue, which if he was serious is what he would do.”

Chris generally comes across as relaxed, but reticent. He doesn’t give as much away as I’d like him to. I’m not saying that (only) because I want more juicy blog-fuel, but because it’s refreshing to hear what someone really feels. Still, he seems to be smart, keen and competent. Also, he’ll be pleased to hear, he comes across as a nice guy. But this is a campaign that neither he nor Ed Fordham can afford to run on personality alone, with Glenda Jackson still in it for Labour, and a yet to be revealed mystery contender joining the race on February 25th.

One thing is certain: things are spicing up on the Hampstead & Kilburn election trail – stay tuned!

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The times they are a-changin’

There’s a lot of dross on the internet. This is a well-established fact. Every now and then, however, you can strike gold. Not literally, unfortunately, but you get the idea. Earlier today, I came across a collection of photographs showing locations in West Hampstead and Kilburn as they are today (well, in 2007), and as they once were. It’s amazing to see how much some places have changed, and how entirely recognizable are others. I’ve picked out a few of my favourites for your viewing pleasure.

1. West Hampstead tube station, opened in 1879, can be seen on the left. It was originally part of the Metropolitan line, then the Bakerloo line, and eventually on the Jubilee, as it is today.

2. What is now West Hampstead police station used to be the stately Berridge House.

3. West Hampstead fire station was opened in 1901. The building may not have changed much, but the equipment sure has.

4. On the corner of Quex and Kingsgate Roads there once stood an impressive Wesleyan chapel. It’s now a block of flats.

5. This is a photo of Kilburn High Road station, circa 1906.

6. Emmanuel School on Mill Lane.

7. Some dapper folk waiting for a train at West Hampstead in 1937.

8. Now simply called The Lion, the Old Black Lion public house is shown here as it would have been in 1896.

9. And finally, Finchley Road station in 1903. Not so much traffic back then.

Well, there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed these as much as I have. I’ll continue my internet-searching for other such wonderful nostalgia. If you have any interesting material that you’d like to share with the world, or know of some good sites where it can be found, do let me know!

Click here for the whole collection.

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Ask yourself, ‘what would John McCririck do?’

There’s been a fair bit of chatter on this blog recently from Lib Dem and Tory supporters (interestingly, not much Labour presence) as to whose election result-predicting figures are most accurate, who’s most likely to become Hampstead & Kilburn’s next MP, and who can throw a tennis ball the furthest. I may have made up that last one, but it would be fun to find out nevertheless…

Democracy... In action!

At the end of the day, it’ll come down to what box all you lovely voters draw your smiley faces in.* But seeing as everyone likes a good bit of speculation, I thought I’d check out the latest predictions made by the real experts: the bookies. The odds quoted below are specific for the Hampstead & Kilburn constituency.

PaddyPower has the Lib Dems as even money favourites, with the Tories at 2/1, and Labour the outsiders at 5/2.

Ladbrokes ranks the three parties in the same order, but offers better odds on the Lib Dems at 11/10. It matches PaddyPower by offering 2/1 on the Tories, and again has Labour as 9/4 outsiders.

William Hill has the best all-round odds, though not dissimilar to Ladbrokes and PaddyPower. It currently has Lib Dems as 11/10 favourites, with shorter odds on the Tories at 7/4, and Labour 5/2.

Finally, online bookmakers Bet365 have the Lib Dems at 11/10, Tories at 15/8, and Labour 5/2.

So in summary it seems that, for now at least, the Liberal Democrats are the bookies’ favourites, with the Conservatives cantering along in second, and Labour bringing up the rear, trotting into third. If you do fancy a cheeky punt, but are unsure of the most favourable odds, your best bet would be Ladbrokes for the Lib Dems, and PaddyPower for the other parties.

Every now and then I’ll keep you posted on the latest odds, especially if there are any notable changes, but if you want to check for yourself, The Guardian has an online odds-checker. Betting is a sure fire way to lose money you don’t have, but it can make Peter Snow’s Swingometrical ramblings considerably more exciting!

Lib Dems vs Tories: who wins? You decide...

*Just in case you didn’t know, if you do put a smiley face in the little box then your vote won’t be counted, so think carefully before taking this drastically cute course of action!

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Brekkie & Crepes, under review

It seems that you can’t open a magazine nowadays without some jumped-up nutritionist pressing upon you the need to embark on the latest fad diet. It’s all ‘carb-free’ this and ‘five-a-day’ that. Well, if we can’t even trust the Great British free press for dietary advice, then who can we trust? Worry not health-conscious, loyal reader, your answer is: me.

And I say there’s no better way to start your day than with a fried breakfast, followed by a pancake chaser. Of course. So on Saturday morning – OK, midday – I gathered some chums and went in search of local eateries which might satisfy my dietary needs. I present my findings below.

The Kitchen Table

The Kitchen Table

Kitchen @ Kitchen Table

The first stop on our culinary journey was The Kitchen Table, on Mill Lane. As the name suggests, the feel that Thomas – owner and life-long West Hampstead resident – was going for was that of a homey family kitchen. There is a large open kitchen overlooking the bright dining area, which has some cook book-bearing shelves, and a large wall proudly decorated with children’s drawings.

Bacon Sandwich

I went for the bacon (and tomato) sandwich (£4), which was sizeable and very tasty. My only criticism would be that the thick-sliced bread meant that the bacon-bread ratio wasn’t ideal. But the juicy bacony core was delicious. My companions all opted for the generously portioned scrambled eggs, which were cooked to perfection and served on toast with some mixed leaves. Optional extras included mushrooms, baked beans, bacon – the usual, basically. The downside this time was the price; though the basic egg dish itself was reasonable (but at £4, not cheap), by the time you added on the extras (£1-£1.50 each), it started getting a tad pricey. People seemed to get around this by ordering one add-on each, and then sharing.

Eggs & Shrooms

Over all, the food was great, if a little on the expensive side. The service was excellent: friendly, attentive and efficient. And the atmosphere was cosy, though it was very busy; it was full when we arrived (we had to wait ten minutes for a table), and still going strong when we left over an hour later. Next door at The Kitchen Stores you’ll find all sorts of cheeses, spreads and other organic/whole food yummies. I bought myself a pint of chocolate milk, in classic milkman-style glass bottle.

Love Food

Love Food

Deli @ Love Food

Having guzzled down the chocolate milk and walked off (a fraction of) my bacon sandwich, I was tempted into Love Food on West End Lane. As you enter you step into a deli-cum-coffee bar, again selling all sorts of delicious-looking organic groceries and the like. Stairs lead down into a restaurant, but we opted to sit in the cafe area at the back to eat our crepes.

Lemony Pancake's series of unfortunate events

One of our group was a crepe-obsessive: she used to be an addict, a one-a-day girl.  Unfortunately, her classic choice of lemon & sugar didn’t manage to meet her exacting standards. The pancake was drowned in a sickly-sweet syrup, and after a mouthful of crunchy sugar made her feel a little sick, she (uncharacteristically) complained to the staff. To their credit, they took it back in a flash, and brought her a perfectly cooked plain replacement, as requested.

ChocoNana

The chocolate and banana crepe, on the other hand, was quite sublime. They did not scrimp on the fillings, and once again the pancake itself was cooked beautifully. Popular opinion would suggest that our lemon & sugar experience was an anomaly rather than the norm, but take statements like “the best crepes in the area” with a pinch of salt, as this is West Hampstead after all, not Paris.

There were plenty of other food options on offer, but the crepes are the real draw for most people and, based on my recent visit, I can’t say with confidence that you are guaranteed to enjoy yours. The atmosphere was warm and comfortable, and the staff, though generally a little disinterested, were very helpful, friendly and accommodating when the complaint was made.

In a head to head, I’d have to give my backing to The Kitchen Table. This might not be entirely fair as I didn’t eat the same thing at each place, but I felt that they were both going for a similar vibe – unassuming neighbourhood healthy-food shop plus cosy cafe – and The Kitchen Table pulls off the whole package with a little more success.

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The NW6 Weekender

So, the weekend fast approaches. It’s time to let your hair down, put on those dancing shoes and sip on a well-earned passion fruit spritzer. But getting into town can be a hellish experience: wrinkled, half-read copies of the Evening Standard sitting lifeless on an empty tube seat, rail replacement buses with their mobile phone-produced grime soundtracks, young folk out in biting mid-winter winds wearing garments too obscene for even the most liberal of bathing ponds. Take it from me, it’s not worth the risk.

But you don’t have to go through all that in order to enjoy some rockin’ live music, or to shake your money-maker through to the wee hours. No siree, Kilburn has it all, and seeing as Thursday’s the new Friday, it’s as good a place as any – better if anything – to begin.

Thursday:

Ex Libras

South London three piece Ex Libras headline at the Good Ship. Expect to hear soothing keyboard melodies and whining vocals disrupted by heavily syncopated beats, with a bit of synth thrown in for good measure. Support comes from The Woe Betides and The Momeraths. £4 entry, doors 7:30pm.

Alternatively, for bass-driven, head-banging, macarena-dancing madness, head over to Power’s Bar, where female-fronted three piece Armada of Secrets will be rocking out, supported by Archive of Everything. Doors 8pm, free entry.

Friday:

Hula Groovey baby, yeah! I'll get my coat...

Hula Groove are mercenaries, musicians for hire. They’re a soul, funk & disco style cover band, complete with bongos, cow bells and vocal harmonies. Their repertoire includes all your faves by the likes of Estelle, Michael Jackson, Deee-Lite and Destiny’s Child. Hey, if it’s good enough for your second cousin’s wedding, it’s good enough for you on a Friday night in Kilburn. The Luminaire, doors from 7:30, £7 entry, with all profits going to Warchild.

Jammin returns to the Westbury for the first time in 2010. The Jammincrew will have all you trendy folk moving and shaking to everything from reggae to hip hop to drum&bass. 9pm-3am, free before 10pm, £5 after.

Live music can once again by found at both Power’s and the Good Ship, with DJs spinning til 4am at the latter.

Saturday:

If you still haven’t had your fix of dancing for the week, or you suffer from the chronic, debilitating disease of Madforititis, then be sure to hit one of the following locales:

The Good Ship (11pm-4am, £5) plays host to DJ Maurice, who’ll be playing the ever-eclectic mix of electro, pop and rock’n’roll hits.

Juicebox: Specs INCLUDED

It’s business as usual at Juicebox @ the Westbury (8pm-3am, £3 before 10pm, £5 after), where it’s party anthems galore; indie, R&B, hip hop and dance classics.

Saturday night means another Krush @ Lower Ground Bar (10pm-3am, £5), where your hips will sway and your wallet will empty to the sounds of soul, R&B and garage.

Your friends at NW6: the blog remind you to ‘ave it large.

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Interview: Ed Fordham

Monday afternoon at Ciao Ciao on Kilburn High Road, and the staff are enjoying some quiet time between lunch and dinner. Sitting across the table from me is Ed Fordham, a regular here, and looking quite at home, sitting back, relaxed and enjoying the occasional sip of his cappuccino. Ed is the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in the new Hampstead and Kilburn constituency, and he certainly looks the part: cheery-faced, smartly suited, and with his oft ringing but, for politeness’ sake, ne’er answered blackberry sitting beside his coffee on the table. Likes: diversity. Dislikes: Tories.

Ed Fordham

He stood for election unsuccessfully in 2005, but now, only a few months away from the next general election, and with the constituency boundaries having been redrawn in the Lib Dems’ favour, Ed is quietly confident about his chances: “I’ve been involved with the Lib Dems for nearly 20 years, and we’ve never run a campaign on this scale, that wasn’t a by-election. For the first time in a century here in Hampstead and Kilburn, the Lib Dems are at risk of winning.”

There are, however, two large obstacles in his way. The first is current Labour MP for Hampstead & Highgate, Glenda Jackson, who has been MP here since 1992. Ed is conscious of not making this a personality-based election campaign, as Jackson is a household name and two-time Oscar winning actress. However, she is also the least active MP representing a London constituency. Ed, on the other hand, hopes to be an active voice for the community.

“I hand sign about five thousand letters a week, and when people pop up on Facebook or Twitter, I reply.” Keeping the conversation between himself and his potential constituents open is crucial to the future success of his campaign. Former US governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, compared Fordham’s use of social networking sites, and his understanding of the importance of grass roots politics, to one Barack Obama. I think that’s about as far as the comparison could go, but Ed was understandably flattered nonetheless.

Kilburn’s very own Barry O’Bama

The second obstacle is the campaign of Tory candidate Chris Philp. According to projections by Rallings & Thrasher, the Lib Dems would only need 474 votes to defeat the Labour party in Hampstead & Kilburn. The conservatives are way down in third, some five thousand votes behind. However, the Tories are using figures from the Ken vs Boris mayoral elections, an entirely different contest, which put them ahead of Labour and Lib Dems both. Ed sees this as a final role of the dice for the Tories:  “There is a level of panic in the Tory campaign the likes of which I’ve never seen before. I think they’re pushing their luck and they’re panicking, using figures which favour them.”

Ed reckons that the Lib Dems’ strong presence on local councils along with Sarah Teather having consolidated her 2003 by-election victory in Brent East sends a message to voters, “I’m going to point out that there’s a pretty high chance that if they vote Lib Dem, they’ll get a Lib Dem MP.”

And what if they do? There’s a great deal of speculation at the moment on what would happen in the event of a hung Parliament. On his hopes for his party at the coming election, with a wry smile, Ed acknowledges, “the only answer I’m probably supposed to give is a Lib Dem majority. But if no party has a majority, then there will be intensive negotiations based, I hope, on policy, as in Scotland, where the Lib Dems hammered out an agreement with the Scottish Labour Party.”

But on a personal level, he makes it quite clear where he stands: “ABC – anyone but Conservatives.” When discussing the Conservatives, Ed’s usually unwavering smile fades, “I suppose that’s the driving force in getting me started in the first place. I saw what they did to my own community and my own family when I was growing up, which I haven’t really forgiven them for…”

The Lib Dems are currently seeking legal advice on one particular element of the Tory campaign, namely claims made by Chris Philp’s newsletter that the Lib Dems supported the closure of the Royal Free Hospital’s stroke unit. Onto his second cappuccino, and Ed Fordham is now visibly annoyed. “I completely take issue with the cheeky sodding Tories saying we supported the closure of the stroke unit. The stroke unit was never under threat of closure.” In a decision supported by clinicians and medical staff, a new acute stroke unit will be opening at UCLH instead of the Royal Free, but no changes are being made to the existing stroke unit in the Hampstead hospital. Ed feels strongly about this, “so when the Tories say ‘save the stroke unit’ – there’s nothing to save. I think [Philp] is being a disingenuous, lying, cheating toad – he’s just trying a cheap trick.”

And what if he should defeat the Oscar winner and the toad? After a moment’s thought he answered, “if I win, I’ll want to walk down Kilburn High Road saying thank you to everyone, and go to my favourite Indian restaurant for a meal with my mates. If I lose, I’ll want to hide. I’ll grow a beard and go work on a farm in India.”

So, all you floating voters, come election day, if nothing else, consider whether you want Ed to support a local business by dining in Kilburn, or add to his carbon footprint by flying to India to sample the real thing…

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