This website likes to rage against cynicism, and wants you to know that you really can make a difference if you get off your backside and do something.
Let’s be honest, though, under first-past-the-post, having to sit through a general election in a safe inner London seat feels a bit like being a hungry vegetarian being led through the world’s biggest meat-eating festival.
But you still have a role to play. You can give the winner a stonking mandate, or cheek them or their party by endorsing someone else. Hey, you could even save someone the humiliation of losing a £500 deposit. And if all else fails, there are many ways you can spoil a ballot paper – just don’t let your scrawlings look like they endorse anyone.
It shouldn’t be a spectator sport. Nominations closed today, and the candidates for Greenwich & Woolwich – an illogical north-west slab of Greenwich borough stretching out to Plumstead Common and the edges of Thamesmead, but missing out on bits of Charlton and Blackheath, have been announced.
Labour incumbent Nick Raynsford has stood down, so there’s a new cast of figures up for election. This is, of course, safe Labour territory – the Tories haven’t won around here since World War II – but both the old Greenwich and Woolwich seats went to the SDP during the 1980s (incumbent Woolwich MP and former Greenwich Council leader John Cartwright defected in 1981; Rosie Barnes won Greenwich in a hugely-publicised by-election in 1987) and held on until 1992, after their party had vanished.
The race for second
The winner may not be a shock. A good night for Labour will be getting more than 50% of the vote – Nick Raynsford bagged 49.2% of the vote in both 2005 and 2010. The champagne will be out if it tops 60%, as happened in 1997 and 2001.
But the fight for second is going to be interesting. Traditionally, the Liberal Democrats and Tories have shared the spoils for second. With a Lib Dem slump and a much-trailed Green surge – the party performed solidly in 2014’s council election – the runner-up spot is going to be the one to watch. Ukip can’t be ruled out either, buoyed by media “impartiality” rules that mean they are getting coverage out of proportion to their usual vote in inner London.
In alphabetical order, here’s who’s standing…
- Ryan Acty (Ukip) Former Conservative activist and ex-soldier who lives in west Greenwich and came within 170 votes of beating Chris Roberts’ henchman Ray Walker in last year’s council election. Indeed, if the BNP hadn’t stood in Eltham West, he might have got in. But Greenwich & Woolwich is different territory, and the party only stood in selected wards here in 2010. Local campaigning seems limited so far. Solid third-placed votes in Charlton, Woolwich Common and Woolwich Riverside suggest the hard-right party is poised for a respectable vote. Social media: Facebook, Twitter.
- Abbey Akinoshun (Green) As in many inner London seats, the local Greens fancy their chances at becoming Labour’s main challengers. They posted fairly healthy votes in the wards that make up Greenwich & Woolwich in 2014, coming an admittedly distant second in six out of seven wards (while bagging over 1,000 votes in the seventh). Not having the mandated media coverage that Ukip has may be a handicap. Abbey Akinoshun stood against the Greens in 2010, running as an independent in Erith & Thamesmead. But the local party are proud of their Abbey Wood-based candidate, describing him as “hugely charismatic”. This could be a pivotal poll for them if they play their cards right. Will they? Social media: Facebook, Twitter.
- Lynne Chamberlain (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition) No relation to the author of this website, the Plumstead-based Greenwich Community College lecturer led her party to fourth place in Glyndon ward last year, notching up 359 votes. Success will be getting the anti-austerity message a wider hearing. Social media: Facebook, Twitter.
- Matt Pennycook (Labour) The former Greenwich West councillor, who lives in Deptford, has played a smart game since being named as Labour’s candidate in 2013, quietly acknowledging the local party’s problems without putting too many noses out of joint. Detractors brand him an “empty suit”, but he has set out positions that put clear red-ish water between predecessor Nick Raynsford (no directorships if elected) and the council of which he was a part (speaking out on both Greenwich Peninsula redevelopment and the Silvertown Tunnel, and the living wage while Chris Roberts was in charge of the council). He’s bound to go far – but how much of a lift-off will Greenwich & Woolwich voters give him? Social media: Facebook, Twitter.
- Tom Holder (Liberal Democrat) The Lib Dems’ truly awful performance in 2014’s council elections suggest things aren’t looking good for Tom Holder, a science communications professional who lives in Rotherhithe. This has traditionally been a difficult area for the Lib Dems – a legacy of local activists staying in the SDP in the 1980s – and the party has struggled to find a local candidate this time around. Success will be 5% of the vote, retaining his deposit – last year’s vote points to about 6%. Can he improve on that? Social media: Twitter.
- Matt Hartley (Conservative) An impressive performer in the Greenwich Council chamber, Matt Hartley – who lives in Blackheath, just a few metres outside the constituency – has continued the Greenwich Tories’ tactic of tacking to the left of Greenwich’s right-leaning council leadership on key issues (except on the Silvertown Tunnel, where he is even helping a pro-tunnel MP in Essex). His consumer campaign on shambolic rail firm Southeastern has also caused a stir – although only the truly dedicated would have swallowed its “rail minister listens to Greenwich concerns” finale. Tipped to lead the local Tories in the future, is this a dry run for a winnable seat at the next election? Social media: Facebook, Twitter.
Meet and quiz the candidates
You can quiz the candidates at hustings across the constituency over the next few weeks. All of these are open to the public, although questions may reflect the priorities of the organisation running the hustings.
Wednesday 15 April, 7.30pm, at Mycenae House, Blackheath (Blackheath and Greenwich United Nations Association).
Friday 17 April, 6:30pm, Greenwich West Community Centre (organised by Breast Cancer Care – register for free ticket).
Sunday 19 April, 11.30am, Greenwich Dance Agency, Royal Hill (Christian Life Fellowship).
Wednesday 22 April, 1pm, Greenwich Community College Plumstead campus.
Thursday 23 April, 7.30pm, Christ Church East Greenwich (local Church of England).
Saturday 25 April, 2.30pm, Charlton Assembly Rooms (Charlton Society).
Tuesday 28 April, 6.30pm, Forum at Greenwich (Greenwich NUT).
Wednesday 29 April, 6pm, Forum at Greenwich (Greenwich Association of Disabled People).
Mycenae House is also holding an “alternative hustings for those fed up with politics as usual” called We The People, which will be on Tuesday 14 April at 7.30pm.
Not had a polling card yet?
Isn’t there a council by-election?
Yes, but only if you live in Greenwich West ward. I wrote about front-runner Mehboob Khan – tipped as a future council leader – last month. Candidates: Paul Butler (Ukip), Christina Charles (Independent), Sonia Dunlop (Liberal Democrat), Sara Kasab (TUSC), Mehboob Khan (Labour), Robin Stott (Green), Thomas Turrell (Conservative).
What’s happening elsewhere?
Eltham used to be a marginal Labour/Tory seat, but the rise of Ukip looks to have put paid to serious Conservative hopes here – bad news for Spencer Drury, the affable opposition leader on Greenwich Council. Earlier this year, the party managed to accidentally leak that Eltham had become a “non-target” seat – a contrast to five years ago, when “A-lister” David Gold came into contest the seat. Expect Clive Efford to romp home for Labour – and don’t be surprised if Ukip’s Peter Whittle, another ex-Tory, comes second. Candidates: Alex Cunliffe (Lib Dem), Spencer Drury (Conservative), Clive Efford (Labour), James Parker (Green), Peter Whittle (Ukip).
Erith & Thamesmead: Labour’s Teresa Pearce should hold onto a seat that combines the north-east of Greenwich borough with Bexley’s strongest Labour area. Again, expect a strong Ukip vote to dent Tory hopes – Abbey Wood was the party’s other high point in last year’s council election. There’s a party leader standing: Sid Cordle of the Christian People’s Alliance. Candidates: Sid Cordle (Christian People’s Alliance), Anna Firth (Conservative), Ann Garrett (Green), Simon Waddington (Lib Dem), Ronie Johnson (Ukip), Graham Moore (English Democrats), Teresa Pearce (Labour).
Lewisham East‘s Labour MP Heidi Alexander is pretty much guaranteed sainthood, never mind a place in Parliament, for campaigning prominently to save Lewisham Hospital. It’ll be interesting to see where the formerly strong Liberal Democrat vote goes here. Ukip candidate Anne Marie Waters has been accused of linking Islam with child abuse, leading to her being disowned by an anti-Sharia law group she used to work with. Candidates: Heidi Alexander (Labour), Julia Fletcher (Lib Dem), Peter Fortune (Conservative), Nick Long (People Before Profit), Maureen Martin (Christian People’s Alliance), Störm Poorun (Green), Anne Marie Waters (Ukip).
Lewisham, Deptford: Pretty much a foregone conclusion, with former councillor Vicky Foxcroft poised to take the Labour mantle from retiring MP Dame Joan Ruddock. As in Lewisham East, People Before Profit are worth watching here, as the spiky left-wing group make their debut in a Lewisham parliamentary election. Candidates: Bim Afolami (Conservative), Phillip Badger (Democratic Reform Party), Michael Bukola (Lib Dem), John Coughlin (Green), Massimo Dimambro (Ukip), Chris Flood (TUSC), Vicky Foxcroft (Labour), David Harvey (independent), Malcolm Martin (Christian People’s Alliance), Helen Mercer (People Before Profit).