Are you ready for the General Election?

Here’s a timetable for the next few weeks.

Monday 22 May (11.59pm). Deadline for registering to vote. Do it online here. You’ll need your National Insurance number (but there’s also a way to register if you don’t have one) and it takes five minutes. If you haven’t done this yet, or if you haven’t helped the young people in your household to do so, you’re off our Christmas card list for good. Seriously.

Tuesday 23 May (5pm). Deadline for new new postal vote and postal proxy applications and for changes to existing postal or proxy votes. If you or your proxy can’t attend the polling station in person on the day.

Wednesday 31 May (5pm). Deadline for new applications to vote by proxy (not postal proxy or emergency proxies). If you can’t attend the polling station in person on the day you can appoint a proxy. You can apply for an emergency proxy vote up till 5pm on polling day itself.

Thursday 8 June, polling day (7am – 10pm). You know what to do. There are usually four polling stations in Radlett – the United Synagogue and the Radlett Centre, Newberries Primary School and the Phillimore Community Centre, and if you don’t know which one is yours, there’s a handy web site where you can find out.

Local and Parliamentary elections in Radlett are run by a team at Hertsmere Borough Council. They have a useful web site where you can find out about candidates, counts, previous results and so on. On the My Society web site, there’s a very useful, plain English guide to voting in UK elections.

What we know about your candidates for the 2017 General Election

There are five candidates for the 2017 election in Hertsmere. That’s one more than in 2015 – the Greens have returned to the fray.

Here’s what we know so far. I’ll add more here as we get it.

In alphabetical order:

Oliver Dowden, Conservative. The incumbent. A local man and a former Cameron adviser, helicoptered in by CCHQ for the 2015 election, he’s managed to retain his relevance in the May era, principally by the simple expedient of absolute loyalty. You won’t find a single vote in defiance of the whip in his Parliamentary record and he’s been heard saying “strong, stable leadership” on a number of occasions, including on this episode of Radio 4’s Westminster Hour in April.

David Hoy, UKIP. Chairman of Hertsmere UKIP. Hoy stood in the 2014 and 2016 local elections. He’s on Twitter, where his bio reads: “Don’t care I will do it anyway”, although he hasn’t tweeted since Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

Joe Jordan, Liberal Democrats. Jordan’s a software engineer and a scientist (with a doctorate). He’s a Liberal activist from Huntingdonshire, where he’s been looking after social media and the web for his local party. He stood in Royston at the 2015 General Election. He’s set up a web site for his Hertsmere campaign and he’s on Twitter (and he’s definitely the only candidate to have his own comic book-style custom Twitter avatar).

Fiona Smith, Labour. Interestingly, Smith has served in both the military and the police force. She’s on Twitter and recently found herself explaining a tweet critical of Israel sent in 2014 (although it looks like it was a tweet sent automatically when she signed an Amnesty online petition). She supported Liz Kendall in the 2015 Labour leadership election so is unlikely to be a Corbyn loyalist.

Sophie Summerhayes, Green Party. Summerhayes joined the Green Party “just before the green surge in 2015” and she’s co-founder of Watford Young Greens. She’s also on Twitter.

Jewish News has some more detail on the candidates. I’ve made a Twitter list for the Hertsmere candidates – follow it to keep up with their tweets during the campaign (Oliver Dowden doesn’t seem to be using Twitter at the moment).

The 2017 County Council elections in Radlett

Hertfordshire County Council elections 2017, Watling division results

UPDATE: Saturday 6 May.

The County Council results are all in. The details shows a strong swing towards the Conservatives. They’ve gained five seats. Labour has lost six, including their leader on the Council, Leon Reefe. The Liberals gained two. Turnout was 34.1%, substantially up from 28.9% in 2013 (turnout here in Watling Division was also up substantially, from 25.8% to 33%).

UPDATE: 8:40am Friday 5 May.

About a third of Hertfordshire’s County Council electoral divisions will be counting today, but the results so far are clear: a big win for the Conservatives, with an increased majority. The Watford Observer has the live story and the BBC’s results pages will have the national numbers.

Results here in the Watling division also show a big increase in the Conservative share of the vote. Caroline Clapper has taken votes from Labour and from UKIP (who helped out by not standing at all). It’s also likely that an increase in turnout has helped the Tories. An interesting local detail is that the Liberals have almost doubled their 2013 vote.

3,726 votes in total (2013 votes in brackets)
Saif Al-Saadoon, Liberal Democrats 318 votes, 8.5% (176, 6%)
Caroline Clapper, Conservative 2,889 votes, 77.5% (1,874, 63.7%)
Peter Halsey, Labour 344 votes, 9.25% (392, 13.3%)
Jessica Wand, Green Party 175 votes, 4.75% (did not stand)

Wednesday 3 May

Elections. Oh God. Will they never end? Here’s another one to worry about. If you’re resident here and you’ve registered to vote (you have registered to vote, haven’t you?) you’ll be able to vote in the Hertfordshire County Council elections on 4 May – like a kind of warm-up for the big one in June. This is just for the County, though – not District (Hertsmere) or Parish (Aldenham).

If you live in Radlett, your County Councillor is Caroline Clapper (Conservative) and she’s standing for re-election. She represents an electoral district (to avoid confusion, they’re actually called ‘divisions’ at County level) called Watling, which also takes in Aldenham, Letchmore Heath, Elstree and a bit of Borehamwood. Watling Street cuts right through the division, from the Northern end of Radlett to the Southern end of Elstree, where it meets the London Borough of Barnet. 15,000 people live in the Watling division and we’re quite an elderly lot: 54% are over 40 and the largest segment in the age distribution is 50-54 (8.5%). More about the Watling electoral division on the Hertfordshire web site.

Clapper (who is also a Hertsmere Borough Councillor), as well as being a member of the full County Council is also on the Enterprise, Education & Skills cabinet panel and the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

In Radlett, she recently consulted local people about the redevelopment of Newberries car park via the Radlett Facebook group and the overwhelmingly negative response must have informed her decision to step down from the Hertsmere committee responsible for the planning decision. She’s cannily expressed no personal opinion about the development but she says “I strongly believe that Radlett residents and businesses should have a big say in any major development proposed for our village.”

Clapper won her seat in the 2013 election with a 63.7% share of the vote so she’s unlikely to be packing her desk at County Hall any time soon. The other candidates for this election are: Saif Al-Saadoon for the Liberal Democrats, Peter Halsey for Labour and Jessica Wand for the Greens. Although they came second in 2013, with a 16.5% share, UKIP are not standing this time. Here are the 2013 County Council election results (scroll down for the Watling division results).

Here’s what we know so far about the 2017 General Election in Hertsmere

Prime Minister Theresa May announcing her decision to go for a snap general election in Downing Street on 18 May 2017There will be a General Election. The House of Commons has voted 522 to 13 to approve the Government’s motion for an early General Election and it will take place on 8 June.

It was a complete surprise – and not just for electors. When I called the office of our MP Oliver Dowden after Theresa May’s Downing Street announcement yesterday, the staffer I spoke to said “when I came to work this morning, I was not expecting a General Election”.

I’m waiting to hear whether Dowden will be seek selection again. I’ve also asked 2015 Labour candidate Richard Butler if he’ll be running and Hertsmere UKIP if they will put forward a candidate. The Greens put up no candidate in 2015 and if I can reach them I’ll ask if they plan to this time.

Hertsmere is, of course, a very safe Conservative seat, so expect no fireworks on June 8th. All the interest will be in the detail. The 2015 result was all about the collapse of the Liberals and the rise of UKIP – almost the whole of the 11.8% swing away from the Liberal Democrats went to UKIP’s Frank Ward and UKIP wound up with more than twice the Liberal vote. Here’s my analysis from May 2015, with detailed results. Turnout was 67.9%.

Brexit, of course, looms large in this vote. Hertsmere voted Leave, by a slightly smaller margin than the country as a whole. Turnout was 76.6%. It’s not possible to break out the Radlett vote for the referendum but our own opinion poll produced a small lead for Remain which, given the profile of the community and its dependence on jobs in the City, doesn’t seem implausible. Read my detailed analysis, putting the Hertsmere vote in the local and national context, here.

We’ll try to post some interesting and helpful stuff here during the run-up to this most interesting election – and will come up with a way to poll Radlett voters too, as we did for the referendum. Do please get in touch if you have any ideas about how we should cover the election from a Radlett perspective. We’re on Twitter (at @RadlettWire) and on Facebook, of course.

Radlett’s EU referendum vote in context

Hertsmere EU Referendum 2016 results comparison

It was, let’s face it, a surprise. As late as the close of polling on Thursday bookmakers were still offering 7/1 on Brexit (that’s a 12.5% probability). The opinion polls weren’t too far off for this vote but still gave Remain a small lead.

Our polling district, Hertsmere, voted Leave by a margin of 1.6% (50.8 – 49.2%), putting the district 262nd of the 382 polling districts – meaning that 261 districts, or 68% of the total, had larger majorities for Leave.

The table, which uses data from the BBC web site, puts Hertsmere in the context of its immediate neighbours and confirms what we essentially already know about the vote in England. London, and a handful of other urban districts, voted Remain, while prosperous suburbs, rural areas and struggling towns voted Leave. The three London boroughs to Radlett’s South voted Remain and all of our other neighbours outside London (except St Albans) voted Leave.

For comparison, I’ve included London itself and the constituency with the largest Leave vote – Boston in Lincolnshire – and the one with the largest Remain vote – Lambeth (I’ve excluded the obvious outlier, Gibraltar, where all but 823 people voted to remain).

It’s difficult to know how Radlett itself voted. The referendum poll – unlike general elections – is not broken down by ward and, of course, there’s no such thing as a ‘safe seat’ in a referendum. Every vote counts. Our own opinion poll of local voters gave a small win to Remain.

And incidentally, the Radlett margin predicted by our poll (which closed on the morning of the referendum) was exactly the same as the actual margin achieved by Remain in critical North East district Newcastle upon Tyne – the first mainland seat declared and the one that got Remainers sweating because it came in below the number suggested by the BBC model.

Radlett Wire EU referendum poll results graphic

Some local people are clearly in shock – especially those whose jobs depend on the financial sector. Others are celebrating. Were you surprised by the result? Do you think we’ve made a terrible mistake? Or is this, as Nigel Farage puts it, a ‘new dawn’ for Britain? Leave a comment below (anonymously if you like) and we’ll share your reactions here, on Facebook and on Twitter.

The Guardian and the BBC both have excellent detailed analysis of the national results.

Lord Ashcroft’s detailed polling, published the day after the referendum, is essential reading.

EU Referendum – Hertsmere has voted

Hertsmere EU referendum result

Leave wins in Hertsmere, by a margin of about 0.9%. And against the backdrop, as I write this at 3.40 a.m., of a bigger vote for Leave than expected. In our Radlett opinion poll, which closed just before the polls opened on Thursday morning, Remain was ahead by about 1.5%.

Turnout for the referendum in Hertsmere was 76.6%, against 67.9% in the last general election and 71% for the referendum nationally. The people of Hertsmere were interested enough to get out and vote, even in Thursday’s storms.

By the time you read this, it’ll probably all be over. The BBC has all the results.

The Radlett Wire EU referendum poll – the results are in

Our EU referendum opinion poll closed early this morning. You voted – narrowly – in favour of Remain. Now it’s time for the real thing. During the ten days the poll was live, things moved around a lot, though, and both sides had a majority at one point or another. With a sample of 361, the poll is probably pretty representative.

Final results of Radlett Wire's EU referendum opinion poll
Turnout in Hertsmere at the last general election, in 2015, was 67.9%. Will the feverish – not to say furious – atmosphere of the campaign and the sheer gravity of the decision we have to make produce a higher turnout? Or will the rain keep voters at home? We’ll know in about twenty hours.

We’ll be at the count and will bring you the results as soon as they’re public. Follow us on Twitter or on Facebook to get the news first.

How will Radlett vote in the EU referendum?

UPDATE: we closed the poll early this morning, before voting in the referendum began. A total of 361 votes were received. The final results are in the poll box below.

It doesn’t matter where you stand on EU membership – everyone is agreed that this may well be the most important vote that any of us make in our lifetimes. And the drama, the acrimony, the unexpected twists and turns have made the campaign so far the most gripping/energising/infuriating (take your pick) in recent electoral history.

So wouldn’t it be interesting to know how Radlett is going to vote in the referendum?

In general and local elections, Radlett votes Conservative. And Conservatives, if the polls are to be believed, will vote leave, by a substantial majority.

So will Radlett vote leave? Or will a commuter town with a big dependence on the City and on the financial sector buck the trend and vote to remain?

With ten days to go before the real vote, let’s find out. Vote below to tell us how you’re planning to vote (anonymously, of course) and we’ll share the results here and on our social media accounts.

In the poll below, we’ve used exactly the language that you’ll see on the referendum polling form and we’ve added a third question for don’t-knows and people who haven’t made their minds up yet.

You can only vote once and you can see the results so far once you’ve voted.

Everything you need to know about Gefiltefest

Logo for Jewish food festival Gefiltefest 2016Gefiltestfest is seven years old. The quirky festival of Jewish food returns to JW3 in Finchley Road on 26 June. I spoke to the festival’s Lisa Helpern for the low-down.

1. What’s the origin of the festival? Who’s idea was it?

It was founded by publisher Michael Leventhal as a charity to explore Jewish heritage through the medium of food.

2. In London in the Summer you can’t move for food festivals and pop-ups. What’s going to make hungry people come down to JW3?

We offer something quite different – aside from our fabulous pop up market there are 40 sessions to choose from throughout the day – workshops, demos, learning sessions, all with the common thread of Jewish food and culture, led by Jewish Chefs, food writers, restauranteurs and so on. We are also kosher under the auspices of the SKA (Sephardi Kashrut Authority)

3. Is Gefiltefest just for Jewish foodies? Or for hungry people in general?

The festival’s for everyone! It’s part of the fabric of London’s cultural diversity.

4. Is Jewish food thriving and evolving? Or is it all about fading traditions?

Most definitely thriving – reinvented and renewed and very in vogue. Take Palomar, the award winning Soho restaurant; Emma Spitzer, last year’s MasterChef runner-up and Aron’s Deli in Bristol – all contemporary success stories in Jewish-inspired cuisine.

5. Who are the superstars at this year’s Gefiltefest? Who should I rush to see?

Everyone! Take a look at the programme (and there are two wine tasting sessions too).

6. What are the big trends in Jewish food you’ll be covering?

Babka, rainbow doughs, kosher prawns, and seasonal eating in line with the jewish calendar.

7. Can I learn to cook at Gefiltefest?

Yes – plenty of workshops and demos (your admission ticket also covers the workshops).

8. Is there anything for the kids to do?

We’ve got drop-off sessions for 5-11 year old through the day and supervised drop-in sessions for 2-11s. There are craft activities through the day, face painters and plenty of tasters in the food market.

9. What are you looking forward to most? What’s got your mouth watering?

Nof Atamna Ismaeel – Israel’s MasterChef winner from 2014 – she’s a microbiologist and an Arab citizen of Israel. Her dishes combine Arab and Israeli traditions in a really exciting way (more about her on the festival web site).

10. Will there be rainbow bagels?

One step beyond, natch – rainbow doughs in hamantaschen!

If you buy tickets in advance there are reduced prices for children and family groups.

All ticket holders will be entered into a draw to win Monarch flights to Israel and sponsor KFH will be holding a draw to win £300 of John Lewis vouchers. There’s also a competition to win a meal cooked for you by UK Masterchef runner-up Emma Spitzer.

Police and crime commissioner – no surprises but a big increase in turn-out

David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, standing in front of a Hertfordshire Police signConservative David Lloyd has been re-elected. Most people don’t know who their Police Commissioner is and surveys have shown that many have no idea what they do. Something’s obviously changed in Hertfordshire, though, because turn-out for the vote more than doubled, from a disastrous 14.5% in 2012 to an almost creditable 29% this year – and that’s in a year with no local authority elections to boost the vote.

None of the candidates secured 50% of the vote in the first round so counting went to a second round, in which Lloyd beat the Labour candidate Kerry Pollard 126,069 votes to 85,854. Chris White, the Liberal candidate, came third, with 38,488 of first round votes. The UKIP candidate, who is a financial adviser to ‘professionals and the comfortably well-off’ in Royston, came dead last.