Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lib-Dem Lynne: Voters Say I Am a Fantastic MP but Can't Back Me; Constituency FocusHornsey and Wood Green

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lib-Dem Lynne: Voters Say I Am a Fantastic MP but Can't Back Me; Constituency FocusHornsey and Wood Green

Article excerpt

Byline: David Cohen

THE man on the doorstep in leafy Muswell Hill looked Lynne Featherstone in the eye and said baldly: "I voted for you last time, Lynne, and although you've been a great MP, I am likely to vote tactically for Labour to keep the Tories out nationally. Which I know," he smiled sympathetically, "is tough on you."

Minutes earlier the Liberal Democrat had been seeking to dissuade me from thinking that voters in Left-leaning Hornsey and Wood Green faced precisely this sort of local-national dilemma. But when Clive Seale, 59, a sociology lecturer, became the third voter in a row to articulate this quandary, her facade cracked.

"It drives me mad," she said, venting her frustration in the midst of the toughest fight of her political life. "Everybody says, 'we love you Lynne, fantastic MP Lynne, we like what you've done as minister on same-sex marriage and on FGM, but we're worried about the Tories'." Flashes of unguarded emotion are as rare on this highly staged campaign trail as they are illuminating. A few days later I witnessed another such moment, this time with Labour's Catherine West outside Hornsey town hall in Crouch End, awaiting the arrival of Ed Miliband.

This was the high point of Ms West's campaign so far, and as she stood among 400 or so cheering supporters brandishing Labour placards, the veteran Labour media adviser Don Brind sidled up for a word of advice.

"The whole point of this visit is that you are in lockstep with Ed and that you make sure you are in every shot," he said. Ms West looked for reassurance. "Is my rosette straight? My make-up good?" she asked nervously. "In my experience," replied Mr Brind, "that stuff doesn't matter. Just smile and keep up with Ed."

Ms West has a track record as the former leader of Islington council, but this is her first run at parliament and there are times when her insecurity shines through and she resembles a rabbit caught in the headlights.

YET this linguist with a Masters in Chinese Studies who came here from Australia 17 years ago and is a mother of two, is also politically canny. She knows she does not have the name recognition of her opponent, but also that she is not burdened by a deeply unpopular party, and she plays it to her advantage on the doorstep.

"Lynne might be well respected but she voted with the Coalition government 94 per cent of the time," she told voters when I accompanied her door to door a few days before Mr Miliband's visit. "The decision you face is not between me and Lynne, it's between Labour and Tory. Do you want to see Ed or Dave stepping into No 10 after May 7?" As the parties know, Hornsey and Wood Green is on a knife edge, with Nick Clegg coming down to bolster Ms Featherstone the day before Mr Miliband bolstered Ms West, and with the most recent poll, albeit back in February, showing Labour ahead by one percentage point. …

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