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So the dust has settled: Tony McNulty is out and Bob Blackman is in. Gareth Thomas fought off Rachel Joyce and despite Cleggmania there were no significant gains for the Lib Dems. 

The web is buzzing with views on the result of the 2010 election in Harrow, so here is Stanmore Politics with the most interesting theories:

All down to Boris: When London went blue to years ago it certainly boosted the Conservatives. And as the mayor himself told Evening Standard journalist Paul Waugh: “I would say it’s Boris wot won it in areas such as Harrow East.”

  Elsewhere, blogger Boris Watch disagrees, noting that where there were high profile Labour losses – in Harrow East or in Brentford and Isleworth for Ann Keen – it was more about constituency record and expenses.

“So where does this leave Boris?  Well, when elected he was supposed to use his charisma to deliver London to Cameron, which would have won him the Premiership.  

“Instead Boris has been decidedly low-profile [...] where Labour seats were lost there appear to have been extraneous factors like an undefendably low majority or expenses scandals rather than a Boris Halo

Paying the price? The majority of commentators have argued that McNulty’s loss – and conversely Gareth Thomas’ win – comes down to expenses.

The Telegraph raged ‘disgraced MPs are driven out by angry voters’ while the Scotsman noted ‘the expenses scandal claimed another victim’ and the Daily Mail waved ‘Cheerio to those cheats’.

One commenter on the blog ThisisBigBrother wrote: “This bunch of sleaze merchants refused to resign but justice has now been done!”

Tory trouble? Lest we forget, both Harrow East and West were Conservative before 1997, but while new Labour has been well and truly decimated Gareth Thomas held on with a respectable majority. Helped by some boundary changes, why did his opponent Rachel Joyce – a very credible candidate – not boot him out too?

The Telegraph’s London Editor Andrew Gilligan  writes that ‘it was also due to a patchy performance by the Tories’ and comments:

“First, candidates clearly mattered in this election. And unlike Boris in 2008, Cameron has not broken through to the working class, in the capital at least.”

The Times notes that this was ‘a terrible night for science’, something that had Dr Joyce been elected, would have been slightly less the case.

Lib Dem loss? Days ago, the Lib Dems under Nick ‘British Obama’ Clegg were tipped by all the pundits and polls to come second in the popular vote, and certainly improve their share of seats. In Harrow, not much changed.

Neil Midgley, the Telegraph’s assistant media editor said: “If you look at the opinion polls at the start of the campaign, and the final results, they are very similar.

“In other words: all that TV hoopla had pretty much no impact on the overall final result at all.

“Of course, individual voters may have switched to and fro based on what they saw on the TV. But the individual constituency results that are striking tend to be so (Jacqui Smith, Tony McNulty) because of the MPs’ expenses scandal”

Green candidate Rowan Langley notes happily: “in Harrow our own supporters turned out to take that leap of faith on the Green candidates, on the ballot paper for the first time, 625 in Harrow West and 793 Harrow East.”

What did Twitter think? One of the sad parts about the defeats of McNulty and Joyce is that Harrow now has even less political representation on twitter. But that didn’t stop the local Twitterati from having their say:

@bigpantywoman: “Wish lab had put up new people in  [sic] Smith and Tony McNulty’s seats, must have known wd lose” 

@MarcusDysch_JC: “The electorate knows what it is doing. Had given the likes of Tony McNulty and Jacqui Smith a kick in balls where they deserved one. Good.”

@alextingle “I agreed most with Christopher Noyce (Liberal Democrats) in Harrow West – how about you?”

@reporterboy “Tony McNulty was cheerful and polite throughout the night, and still so despite the clear dejection of defeat. Respect for that from me.”

@mattgodbolt “Yay! Tony McNulty is no longer my MP. Conservatives got in, not my choice but not a total disaster”

@ilyine “Tony McNulty is goneski.”

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Tony McNulty never contemplated stepping down after last year’s expenses scandal.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Stanmore Politics, the Harrow East MP said that despite resigning from his ministerial position after he was found claiming second-home expenses for a house his parents lived in, he never considered not contesting the seat in 2010.

 Mr McNulty, who was elected when New Labour entered power in 1997, said:

“I didn’t ever consider standing down. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way.”

 He said he wanted to let the people of Harrow decide based on his record as MP, adding that he resigned as employment minister because it was unfair to continue in the post whilst the parliamentary investigation was underway.

 The MP, who has a majority of 4,730, said he had no complaint with the media about the coverage of the expenses scandal. He said

“It was perfectly reasonable for there to be such scrutiny”.

 Discussing the events while in his Westminster office, the walls decorated with posters of past American presidential campaigns, he said the overall political system was rotten.

 “There was a degree of groupthink, collectively from MPs about the nature of the system. If I have any complaint about the coverage of expenses, it’s that the starting premise is that every MP is wrong until they prove otherwise.

 “We may have brought that on to ourselves. I can understand that too.”

 He said he accepted responsibility for his role in the scandal, and said that MPs should have been more transparent about the information.

 “We should have dealt with the whole issue much, much earlier.”

 Mr McNulty said the toughest time over nearly thirteen years in office had been the decision to go to war with Iraq. But the MP, who supported the war, said he stood by his decision and believes the fighting in Afghanistan is justified.

“I weighed up the pros and cons either way, first and foremost as an individual not as a government minister. If I’d arrived at the opposite decision then I’d have done the decent thing and stepped down.

“Given all the information at the time it was the right decision. History is replete with people looking back with 20/20 hindsight. Afghanistan is a place that we should be and good work is being done there.”

The former immigration minister denied that Labour policies in this area had boosted the BNP. He said:

 “BNP members clearly dislike black or brown faces full stop, they’re not saying you’re a third generation Asian so you’re OK, they’re against black and brown people.

 “There has been a failing over the last ten or twenty years, not just under Labour, that takes away the legitimate identity, particularly from white working class.”

Following the official opening of the Hindu Krishna-Avanti Primary School in Harrow, Mr McNulty said faith schools were a good thing and he did not accept they were divisive. Although Labour has long been criticised for its attitude towards faith schools, the MP said this was a debate within all parties.

 He said he felt he had lived up to his commitment in his maiden speech to improve education in Harrow, adding that he was committed to securing funding for the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

 Last month its medical director made headlines by announcing he might contest the next election if the money was not allocated. But Mr McNulty said he understood Professor Tim Briggs’s frustration.

 “Tim is a passionate man, absolutely committed to the hospital. I’ve said to Tim that if he stands against me that’s entirely a matter for him.

 “I will see through successfully the funding of the hospital because it’s the right thing to do, not because Tim wants to stand against me. That’s entirely a matter for him.

 The MP would not even entertain the prospect of losing a fourth term in office. But he said if the council elections coincide with the general election by falling on May 6th – “I have to put the caveat there, but I assume it is” – the results would be interesting.

 “On a 60 or 70 per cent turnout there might be some strange ward based results throughout Harrow. I’m predicting that Stanmore Park and Canons are to go Labour.”

 He said it was ‘a real possibility’ that Harrow council would swing to Labour, but admitted that not having a working website, as Stanmore Politics reported here last week, was not helpful.

 “I do take the point,” he said. “I will look into it.”

 Having just joined Twitter, although not yet active on the site, Mr McNulty was positive about the role of blogging in political campaign. But he reserved no praise for fellow Harrow politician, (Conservative PPC for Harrow West) Rachel Joyce’s efforts.

 “It’s quite a tedious blog though isn’t it.”

Read the full interview here

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Local government should embrace social networking, according to a report released today.

The report encourages councils to employ internet communication tools as a cheap and simple way of informing the public and delivering services. At present, many councils see sites like Twitter as a security risk and block access to them.

According to the man behind Social media: why ICT management should lead their organisations to embrace it:

“Use of social media has exploded, appearing on the radar of ICT managers, but mostly for the wrong reasons.”

Chris Head argues that councils need to be educated about the benefits of social media. He said:

“The term “social” implies “not related to work”, but this is a fallacy.”

It’s a point politicians in the Harrow area could take on board. According to Tweetminster, there are over 300 constituencies now represented (by MPs and/or PPCs) on Twitter.

Yet our politicians are fairly quiet on the social media front. Since Harrow Council joined Twitter in July 2009, they have posted a paltry 37 messages.

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