Page last updated at 06:03 GMT, Friday, 30 April 2010 07:03 UK

The Battle for Finchley and Golders Green

By Jonathan Josephs
BBC News London

Margaret Thatcher said when she first won the seat of Finchley & Golders Green that her majority of 12,000 was not enough - but a lot has changed since 1958.

Mike Freer
Central office is expecting a win and clearly if we don't then they will be severely disappointed
Mike Freer

More than half a century later it seems the only cast-iron guarantee in the Iron Lady's old seat is not a Conservative victory, but a very closely fought race.

The north London constituency is the Torys' top target in London and the party knows it has a fight on its hands.

Labour won it in 2005 but boundary changes mean it is predicted to go blue this time around.

However, with a notional majority of just 241, Conservative candidate Mike Freer is taking nothing for granted and the pressure is on.

"Central office is expecting a win, and clearly if we don't then they will be severely disappointed," he said while knocking on doors in the affluent Finchley Church End ward.

Mr Freer has 13 years on the local Barnet Council and it is that familiarity with the area that he is keen to highlight to voters.

The national issues one woman of Claremont Park raises are typical - the economy, taxation and the NHS.

Alison Moore
Alison Moore is the leader of the Labour opposition on Barnet Council

But on the next street Corinne Nejad wants to talk about schools, and he is clearly in his stride, familiar with the ups and downs of the local education system.

So will this most marginal of seats be decided on the local or the national issues?

It is particularly fascinating given the Labour candidate is Alison Moore, the leader of the Labour opposition on Barnet Council.

And the Liberal Democrat candidate Laura Edge is positive 'Cleggmania' will help her.

Mr Freer maintains this parliamentary contest is "not at all" a referendum on Barnet Council but Mrs Moore disagrees.

Economy and jobs

She raises the £27m that Barnet lost in the Icelandic banks collapse, as well as criticisms of local projects, arguing "inevitably because you have two local candidates... there are local issues and local records that will clearly play on the doorstep".

The opponents also disagree on how the council's issues are resonating with the electorate.

The Old Westcroft Estate is a less well-heeled part of the constituency.

So it is no surprise the voters Mrs Moore encounters are keen to talk about the economy and jobs.

Laura Edge, Lib Dem Liberal Democrat PPC for Finchley and Golders Green
Liberal Democrat candidate Laura Edge is banking on Nick Clegg's popularity

One young mother is typical of the area, declaring that she has "supported Labour for many years" but is concerned about housing and tax.

Mrs Moore reassures her with Labour's message of fairness, adding people are responsive to the idea of exiting a recession by not cutting the budget deficit too fast.

This might be natural Labour territory which Mrs Moore knows well, but she knows in a race this tight, every vote, core support included, will count.

Converting support into votes is also a challenge for the Liberal Democrats.

Nick Clegg's performances in the television debates might have galvanised his party, but what about the local effect in a two-way marginal?

The party's momentum is reflected in their candidate.

Housing solicitor, Laura Edge, 30, is enthused by the Clegg-factor.

"It's given people a real sense that they could have a real change," she said.

"In the past the barrier that you've always had as a Lib Dem on the doorstep is that it's a wasted vote, especially in a constituency like this."

It would take a massive 22% swing for the seat to go to the Liberal Democrats, so victory is unlikely.

In Finchley & Golders Green it seems a majority of 12, let alone 12,000, will do.


The declared candidates for the constituency of Finchley & Golders Green are:

UK Independence Party: Susan Cummins; Liberal Democrat: Laura Edge; Conservatives: Mike Freer; Green: Donald Lyven; Labour: Alison Moore.



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