Can Kate Hoey, a prominent Brexiteer, hold on to her seat when her constituents overwhelmingly voted “Remain”?by Katharine Quarmby / May 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Kate Hoey is playing bingo with elderly locals at St John’s church hall, just up the road from Stockwell Tube. It’s all in a day’s work for the Labour parliamentarian, with some of her (former) constituents raising issues relating to the church minibus. Another pensioner complains about “the Portuguese” below sub-letting their flat to multiple occupants, before dotting her bingo card hastily with a marker. Hoey doesn’t win but is philosophical. “I’d have donated the money back after all,” she says.
Afterwards, people come up, asking for posters for the general election and pose for a group picture, smiling. One local, Barbara, says “Vauxhall is Labour, and so is London” and adds that she tore a strip off the Liberal Democrats when they came knocking at her door a few nights previously. “I told my carer, if she picks up any leaflets from them, they go straight in the green bin.”
The Liberal Democrats are challenging hard for the south London seat that Hoey has held for 28 years. They have chosen journalist George Turner for the fight, and the battle has turned what Hoey calls “nasty…negative,” shaking her head in what appears to be genuine disappointment. On the face of it, Hoey should win comfortably: she coasted to victory in 2015 with a 12,708 majority, over 53 per cent of the vote. The Liberal Democrats came in fourth, with 6.9 per cent.
This time around, Turner has made the Vauxhall contest about Hoey’s prominent role in the unofficial EU Leave campaign, Grassroots Out. Some 80 per cent of her constituents voted Remain, against the national trend. Hoey appeared, famously, smiling next to Nigel Farage on a boat on the Thames, during one of the more bizarre moments of the campaign when rival fleets skirmished on the river. The Liberal Democrats have made hay with this and have photoshopped Hoey’s face together with that of Farage on one set of local election leaflets.
Paul Nuttall, the new leader of UKIP, has not helped matters. He “endorsed” her during a recent BBC interview, saying that the party would not stand against her and that their voters should switch to Hoey. To make matters worse, he appeared at a local St George’s Day event last…