July 25, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
I wonder what Conservative Parliamentary candidate Chris Philp was thinking when he first heard that he would be standing against Labour Party royalty Emily Benn at the next election?
Philp, as some political obsessives might remember, was the poor chap who, after two recounts, lost the Hampstead and Kilburn seat at the 2010 election to Glenda Jackson by 42 votes, out of over 50,000. Rewarded for his diligence and continued work for the party by being given the safe seat of Croydon South (15000 majority) when Richard Ottaway decided to stand down, I would imagine Philp thought he would ascend to being an MP, probably for as long as he wants, with ease in May. But there will be considerable focus on the seat now, and he could find himself in more of a battle than he expected.
Here I will declare an interest. I was teaching in Kilburn during the 2010 campaign and both Philp and Jackson came to speak and debate with my A level politics class. Well, to be honest Jackson merely snapped irascibly at any difficult questioners until they stopped asking anything and I had to take over. But Philp, who had spent the previous year working with students all over the constituency on young enterprise projects, spent his 90 minutes engaging in a kind and friendly way with a group of pupils who were all left wing and wanted to give him a hard time. He had patience and bonhomie and won over them personally, although not politically. Watching him answer the questions, I could see someone who had strong beliefs but was rather inexperienced. 17 year olds were able to tie him in knots on issues, and i wondered how he would get on against the great performer Jackson in the hustings. Sure enough, he just missed out. I was sad for him, again on a personal level.
So I was happy when he was given the safe seat of Croydon South, because, having had a successful career in business, I think he does want to make a difference as an MP. His politics is right wing, and he is easy to categorise as a Thatcherite, and I wouldn’t agree with him on everything, but I genuinely wish him luck.
I’m not sure about Emily Benn, because I know very little about her other than her lineage and her current job working for UBS bank. I do know from reading the comments on the Croydon local newspaper that there is some disquiet about her selection, and The Telegraph have noted with some glee how comfortable the Labour Party are with the hereditary principle (would she have been selected without her surname). I sense that they have put her there for some proper campaigning experience against a candidate whom even Glenda Jackson (rarely complimentary about anyone) praised as pleasant, honest and fair.
Croydon South will be a seat to watch though.