Happy times in Highgate

Another by-election campaign is underway, this time in Highgate ward. So this morning saw me heading up the Holloway Road on the 43 to meet the Highgate team at Jacksons Lane community centre. It’s an appropriate rendez-vous, because the future of the community centre is one of the key issues in the by-election.

Jacksons Lane is a converted church, and as busy as many churches this Sunday – with salsa and belly dancing classes, a children’s play and an evening theatre session on offer. Last year a tree fell and damaged the roof and thousands of pounds have been spent on repairs; so it’s particularly short-sighted of Labour-led Haringey Council to be non-committal about future funding of the centre. This may explain why Labour have come fourth or even fifth in Highgate ward of late.

The weather was sunny and so was our mood. The Lib Dem candidate, Rachel Allison, is charming, energetic and cares passionately about her area, pointing out key local issues – from shortage of parking for patients at the 15-doctor GP surgery to over-development of the conservation area – and greeting lots of residents by name; she’ll make an excellent councillor for Highgate, and I hope she gets in. Certainly the voters I canvassed, in a typical London mix of big houses and small flats, were all very supportive.

One woman I met was an academic studying women in politics, and voting for Rachel; and she’s also a big fan of Highgate’s Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone. We also chatted about Hillary Clinton’s prospects. I aired my theory that having seen the achievements of Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice and Nancy Pelosi, maybe the US just doesn’t see having a woman President as the big breakthrough it would have been a cycle ago? Not so, said my contact: they just don’t like Hillary.

As an armchair Arsenal fan, watching a Carling Cup final between Chelsea and Spurs was never going to be a priority for me; but Highgate is full of Spurs fans (Rachel’s husband and son were already at Wembley) so canvassing was off for the afternoon. I headed to the West End bar where Richard was watching the match. It was an exciting finish with a winning goal in extra time, and good natured despite several yellow cards; nothing like yesterday’s horrific foul against Eduardo. It’s deeply weird being surrounded by cheering Spurs fans – even the evening rain didn’t dampen their spirits – but at least it’s a good omen for Rachel.

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