You turn out if you want to
Close-run contests, scandal-hit MPs… With a General Election on the horizon, we see how our constituency, Islington South & Finsbury, sizes up on the political map
1. In a nutshell, it’s always been a Labour-Liberal tussle in our area, with Labour winning in the end. The Tories have hardly had a look-in.
2. The boundaries of the constituency have altered slightly over the years since 1974 (when mass boundary changes came into force across the country). Today, Islington South & Finsbury stretches to Lower Holloway in the north,
the Barbican in the south, De Beauvoir in the east and King’s Cross in the west.
3. Labour’s Emily Thornberry has been our MP since 2005. She lives in Richmond Crescent, in Barnsbury – Tony and Cherie Blair lived at 1 Richmond Crescent until they moved to Number 10.
4.Islington as a whole is represented by two MPs – the other MP is Jeremy Corbyn for Islington North (also Labour).
5.Labour’s Chris Smith was our MP from 1983 to 2005. He was the first British MP to come out as gay (in 1984), and the first to say publicly that he was HIV positive (in 2005). The former Culture Secretary is now a life peer, Baron Smith of Finsbury.
6.Our seat has often been marginal. When Chris Smith and Emily Thornberry won, in 1983 and 2005 respectively, they did so with majorities of just 363 and 484.
7. The year Chris Smith retired and Emily Thornberry won, in 2005, our seat was one of the 10 most marginal in the country.
8. When Chris Smith won in 1983, his rival was the incumbent, George Cunningham of the SDP. Cunningham had been the local MP, under Labour, for more than a decade. He defected to the SDP in 1982.
9. Our turnout in recent history has reflected the national average, hovering around the 60 per cent mark.
10. The Conservatives tend to take between around a fifth and a third of the local vote. Their highest percentage share was 34 per cent, in 1979.
11. Our constituency has seen candidates from the National Front, BNP and Communist parties (in the Seventies and Eighties); the Stuckist Party (2001); and the Green Party (1987 and 2005). Those representing independent causes have stood for, among other things, Justice from British Rail and Animals Count.
12.There have been two candidates from the Official Monster Raving Loony Party: Marie Avino in 1992 and Andy “The Hat” Gardner in 2005.
13.How has UKIP done? It first appeared on our ballot papers in 2005, when it took 1.5% of the vote. It edged that up to 1.6% in 2010.
14. Last November, Emily Thornberry (who is formally Lady Nugee MP, as her lawyer husband, Christopher Nugee, is knighted) was forced to resign from her role as Shadow Attorney General after the “white van man” Twitter debacle. She also caused controversy in 2005 when it emerged that she’d sent her son away to the selective Dame Alice Owen’s School. Although it was originally founded in Islington, it is now in Hertfordshire.
15. Andrew Mitchell, the Tory MP of “Plebgate” fame, lives in a Georgian house in Islington (at the time of going to press, anyway. He’s said to considering selling one of his homes to meet his legal costs).
16. Clerkenwell is home to Chris Huhne, the disgraced former Lib Dem MP. In 2013, he served a prison sentence for perverting the course of justice over a speeding charge. He bought a Grade II-listed building in Britton Street in 2012.
17. The Upper Street restaurant Granita, now gone, sealed Islington’s political reputationas New Labour luvvy-land. It was where Tony Blair and Gordon Brown made their infamous pact.