Labour is pouring manpower into the seat of Battersea, South London, after Conservative activists abandoned the re-standing MP because she pushed through plain packaging for cigarettes. Jane Ellison used her role as Minister for Public Health to pass legislation to cover cigarette packets with health warnings.
When she put the proposals to the House of Commons, she faced a huge backlash from Conservative MP. A total of 85 Tories voted against the change, despite pressure from the government. Many more are said to have privately opposed the move.
With the election entering its last full week Ellison is under siege from a well organised Labour campaign. The challengers have at least 50 to 60 people out every weekend, whereas Ellison can only muster roughly half that number once a month. That is despite Battersea being within Wandsworth Borough, an ultra-safe Tory council, which holds the area in local elections by a thumping majority.
Breitbart London understands Wandsworth Conservative members had been considering removing Ellison if the 2013 boundary changes had gone through. Under the changes Battersea and Vauxhall would have been merged, forcing Ellison to run against Labour’s Kate Hoey.
While Ellison is an avowed pro-European, who privately harbours ambitions to join the euro, Hoey wants to leave the EU altogether. And as Ellison was leading the charge towards plain packaging, Hoey signed a letter complaining about the policy.
The stark contrast between the two is said to have led to fears that if the two ever faced each the Conservatives would be standing the more left-wing candidate. Local activists are understood to have been deeply unhappy with the prospect of swapping political sides with their Labour rivals.
Conservative HQ is still convinced Ellison will win, but Labour is famed for its knowledge of London politics. Last weekend Labour held a mini-general election, where activists run a full dress rehearsal of polling day, to check they are ready for the real thing. These types of exercises are normally only carried out in seats a party believes it has a strong chance of winning.
The mock general election was personally overseen by Sadiq Khan MP, who is running Labour’s campaign in London. Khan is from Wandsworth and is MP for Tooting and so knows the patch intimately. He would be unlikely to waste time and energy on a seat he thinks he’ll lose.
Under normal circumstances Ellison’s majority of 5,977 would be enough to carry her. However, Battersea Conservatives have struggled to persuade their own activists to save Ellison. Most are believed to be either sitting on their hands, or helping in the neighbouring safe seats, even though this is unlikely to make any impact.
To make matters even worse for Ellison her Labour opponent, Will Martindale, is appealing to the middle of the road young professionals who dominate Battersea. On Sunday he ran the London Marathon, raising nearly £2k for Trinity Hospice. He is also known to have a pro-business stance, making him more acceptable to Conservatives.
Losing the seat would be a major blow to the Conservatives despite Ellison’s unpopularity.