how freak circumstances conspired to save ‘doomed’ Iain Duncan Smith

As one big Tory beast after another The Hunger Games on election night, one in particular escaped the pile. Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservatives, stood tall on the podium with the former and current Labor candidates who had been so favored by the vicious fight.

He was shocked when the returning officer for Chingford and Woodford Green called out his total of 17,281 votes, which was understandable given the poll had predicted he had less than a 1 per cent chance of victory. And yet there he was, the great survivor who had more than doubled his majority and the beneficiary of one of the biggest cock-ups in modern campaign history. It seemed that IDS had been saved by a miracle. “I live for the fight,” he says. “The campaign is a test.”

Back in 2019, it would have been easy to assume Duncan Smith was on loan. The mood of Tory jubilation that came with Boris Johnson’s 80-seat majority was somewhat muted on the north-east borders of London and Essex. Duncan Smith, now 70, who took over from Norman Tebbit in 1992, polled 1,762 votes, behind Labour’s Faiza Shaheen, and, as increase in the 2024 election, the people were willing to entertain the chances. of Tory holding as rare as happy Scottish Nationalists. Such a result was even less likely due to a boundary change, which pitted parts of South Ilford and Upper Walthamstow against Labor in the constituency.

Even Duncan Smith admits, “My seat should have been written off long before this election. We thought it was based on the fact that even though people were angry with the government, they would still vote for me.”

Unbeknownst to anyone outside the Byzantine world of the local Labor constituency party, all was not well. In scenes reminiscent of many internal power struggles since Sir Keir Starmer became Labor leader, the Corbynite faction tried to maintain its influence as documents and fresh priorities were passed down from the new regime at Labor HQ.

Shaheen, 42, was a Corbynite and ally of former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell: she backed Rebecca Long-Bailey in the leadership contest and controversially argued against allegations that Jeremy Corbyn laid a wreath on a grave the members of the terrorist organization who were responsible for it. the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.

In another witty incident described by her opponent as “casual racism,” she mocked former home secretary Sajid Javid, speculating that he “definitely orders lemon and herb chicken at Nandos,” mocking his authenticity as a man of Pakistani heritage.

Indeed, the ill-feeling goes back to the selection process for 2019, when Corbyn was still Labor leader. Moderates in the constituency party felt that Shaheen had been put on them. Then, in 2022, Shaheen, an economist, was chosen again, on the basis that she ran Duncan Smith Close in 2019.

Faiza Shaheen

Independent candidate Faiza Shaheen was a staunch Corbynite – Shutterstock

This, despite the fact that she was spending much of her time at New York University. And she was still a prospective Labor parliamentary candidate on May 22 this year, when Rishi Sunak called the election.

But, over the next seven days, as the Labor leadership reviewed its candidates, Shaheen was summoned to appear at a National Executive Committee panel at the last minute and asked to explain a series of social media posts. which minimized her accusations of anti-Semitism. like.

On May 29 she was informed that she had been deselected, a decision Shaheen said left her in “shock” and prompted a largely sympathetic response on social media.

Owen Jones tweeted: “Labour is an institutionalized racist political party.” Fifty local activists left her and helped co-ordinate her campaign as a new Independent candidate. It is understood that Shaheen was only sacked because loved one of his Daily Show sketches, the US satirist Jon Stewart said about the actions of Labor: “This is the dumbest thing the United Kingdom has done since the election of Boris Johnson.” For a few days, Chingford was the most famous British parliamentary constituency in the world.

A local Labor activist told me: “She always ran as an independent anyway. It was always about her rather than the party. So after she was deselected, she was just a more exaggerated version of what she had always been.”

On hearing the news that 41-year-old Shama Tatler had been replaced, Shaheen posted: “Really? Wow, consultant Brent with no history here at all? It would be better if they lost a pro-Palestine candidate from the Left. This is an insult to the community.”

On May 31, Shaheen wrote a column i The Guardian claiming that hundreds of people would not vote Labor because of how she was treated. She turned out to be right about that.

On the same day, the Chingford Labor office was vandalized, covered in anti-Israel graffiti, including “”Israel [sic] lobby out” and “UK MPs die for the UK Not Israel.”

Shama TatlerShama Tatler

Shama Tatler replaced Shaheen as Labor candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green – Facebook

Tatler condemned it as an attack on the entire community, which some of Shaheen’s supporters claimed was a smear against local residents. That Tatler, a Hindu, who was a member of the Jewish Labor Movement, was not given universal approval. On June 5, the group “We Deserve Better” endorsed Shaheen, an alliance of hard-left activists who have put Gaza front and center in their politics.

Shaheen’s campaign was aggressive and dynamic, with her own YouTube channel and effective social media. Seven-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, a local man, gave her his unconditional support. In her heartland, Highams Park ward, Shaheen’s fans were very visible, handing out slick leaflets at train stations and schools, pressing stickers on children’s blazers before they entered the playground. Her team did much of their own canvassing, which always put her ahead of Duncan Smith and Labour.

A Labor volunteer who canvassed every day in the week leading up to election night told me: “We didn’t put anything out there directly challenging Shaheen. She has been saying from day one that the Labor Party has wronged her and that we are such bad people, but we have done nothing to counter or deny that. I’m glad they de-selected her – but we needed a better and clearer explanation as to why it was done.”

Instead of addressing the real threat to Labour, the local party’s message and literature was generic, attacking Rishi Sunak and mocking his decision to leave the D-Day celebrations early. When they de-selected their own candidate at the start of the campaign – six weeks before the election – Labor were given a mountain to climb. With a representative who could easily be despised as a “foreigner,” Shaheen effectively portrayed herself as a victim of a stitch-up.

Where everyone knew Shaheen, Tatler struggled to get recognition. “When the Labor split happened, we couldn’t figure out what was happening to him,” says Duncan Smith. “But I was able to keep the protest vote from Reform at least because people knew my record. And I said to my staff “‘Don’t get mixed up with anything to do with Labour.’

The volunteer said: “On the doorstep, so many people said to me, ‘Wasn’t it nice what you did for that woman, was it?’ She was very good at taking advantage of that.”

Iain Duncan SmithIain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith with activists on the campaign trail

Meanwhile, Duncan Smith’s team went about their business. Shaheen was using the ultra-local card for all it was worth, but two people can play that game. The former Tory leader is known as a very conscientious Constituency MP and has had three decades of local networking to call upon. That was crucial to keeping his vote above that of his two warring rivals.

“We never stopped working in the constituency after the last election,” says Duncan Smith. “That was crucial. We were very local – it was about me and what I did. I have close to 90 percent familiarity with the area.”

“We didn’t work hard enough to expose Shaheen’s politics,” says the Labor volunteer. “We weren’t aggressive or passionate enough.”

As the candidates took to the stage in the early hours of July 5, Shaheen continued to stare at Tatler, who was shrinking as the result came out. When the results were read out, Shaheen shook her head and snapped at Tatler. But it was Duncan Smith who prevailed. Tatler had 12,523 votes; Stretch 12,445. Both camps were blaming each other.

“There were some vicious things going on between their campaigns,” says Duncan Smith. “On one occasion I had to sit between them to keep them apart.”

IDS not only won, but increased its majority to 4,758, albeit with a reduced share of the vote. Until Shaheen opted out, Chingford and Woodford Green were the tenth most likely seats to change in Labour’s target rankings.

One Labor activist told the Politico website: “It’s like the Terminator. It cannot be defeated.”

On the eve of Labour’s landslide, they somehow wanted to mess it up in Chingford. It was a terrible election for the Conservatives, but this was a small miracle to witness. There was no doubt that Norman Tebbit was laughing somewhere.

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