On Tuesday night I went to the London Jewish Forum hustings, held at the London Jewish Cultural Centre in Golders Green. The reason why Sarah Sackman, Labour’s impressive candidate in Finchley and Golders Green, is within striking distance of winning the Thatcher’s old seat was apparent. It was a pleasure to watch her in action.
Sarah is a young public law barrister, who grew up in Finchley. She is proudly Jewish and her late grandfather was an Israeli ambassador. This is important in a seat where 22% identify as Jewish.
However, this is not the reason why the seat may fall to Labour in a week’s time. The Tories did not even consider this seat to be a marginal. Last night I watched Sarah, in front of a primarily hostile audience, bat aside difficult questions with intelligence and skill. Even those in the audience who do not usually support Labour came away impressed. David Byers, Foreign News Editor at the Times, has described her as ‘the one to watch’.
Sarah stood for selection after representing residents fighting to keep Friern Barnet library open. She and her team are running a community based campaign, with campaigns to save libraries, reverse cuts to disabled services and protect NHS walk in centres. Last week she held a public meeting for those affected by the proposed Brent Cross regeneration scheme. Over 300 people squeezed into a hall to listen to leading legal experts talk about the process and their rights. Residents who do not normally engage with politics tell volunteers that they are ‘voting for Sarah’.
A win in Finchley and Golders Green, Thatcher’s old seat and against the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, is within Labour’s grasp.