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Inside the chocolate factory

Posted on 28 February 2009 | 10:02am

I thought I knew North London fairly well. So whenever I’ve seen ‘The Chocolate Factory’, I’ve always assumed I knew what it was.

Indeed, as we parked the car before last night’s fundraiser for Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Party, saw it was taking place next to the Chocolate Factory, and Fiona asked ‘what’s The Chocolate Factory?’ I said ‘duh,’ or somesuch inelegant indication that it was blindingly obvious what ‘The Chocolate Factory’ was. A Chocolate Factory.
It turned out she was right to be quizzical, and I was wrong to be so confident.

It used to be part of the Bassetts sweets empire, but is now a collection of small creative industry workshops. Attached to it is the restaurant for the dinner, La Kera, which is like a canteen for the Factory during the day, and a restaurant by night.
It helps at these dinners – I’ve been to some bad ones in my time – if there is a nice ambience and good food, and La Kera provided on that front.

But the reason I got thinking about The Chocolate Factory, and things not always doing what the name says, is because in Hornsey and Wood Green, Labour candidate Karen Jennings is trying to oust a Lib Dem, Lynne Featherstone. And as people in both Labour and the Tory Party know, when you’re up against the Lib Dems, you’re never quite sure, though it says Lib Dem on the label, what you’re fighting.

The label says ‘basically Labour but with some quite left-wing values and a few specific problems with government policy’ in what they see as traditional Labour areas, and ‘basically Tory but we try to be nicer people’ in more Conservative looking areas.

So in Hornsey and Wood Green, they do a bit of both.
This post code politics has served them well in local campaigns down the years. But talking to activists last night, the message coming back was that since Lynne Featherstone had been elected as Lib Dem MP – helped by a strong anti-war sentiment in the area – she was coming over as a lightweight. What made for good campaigning did not necessarily make for a good MP.

What also came over in the q and a after my speech was a real appetite for more aggressive campaigning by the younger members of Gordon Brown’s ministerial team. And, said Karen Jennings, there was far greater understanding on the doorstep for how GB is trying to handle the economic crisis, than comes over through the media.

His speech to Congress this week is a big moment. People will hopefully be drawn by the drama of the moment to hear the content of his argument. He remains one of the world leaders most active and engaged in shaping the ideas to lead us out of the recession and into recovery.

As I said on twitter last night, someone in the room, Matt Cooke, was twittering about the speech as I spoke. I have yet to master receiving or sending tweets as he has and I could tell how pathetically impressed he thought I was when he scrolled through all the things he had been saying about what I had been saying.
I had already taken to him when he led a surprisingly hearty round of applause when I defended the government on Royal Mail. Then I learned he worked for Pat McFadden, the lead minister in the Commons on the issue.

It was nice to meet Claire Kober, who has taken over as leader of Haringey Counil in the wake of the Baby P controversy. She is a very impressive woman.

It was not all sweetness and light though. I took the opportunity, in a room dominated by Spurs supporters, to say I really hoped they lose the Carling Cup Final tomorrow. The last few days have been horrible, as I contemplate what might have been if Burnley had held out for just two more minutes in the second leg of the semi final.

I really hope Karen Jennings beats Lynne Featherstone. But I also really want to see those Spurs players looking like ours did when they undeservedly beat us.

Small-minded I guess, but there you go. I know it says Big-hearted Al on the label. But football is football, and what Spurs did to us was beyond forgiveness.

  • Marcus Dillistone

    As a Man. United (and Yeovil Town) fan I concur.

  • Judith Haire

    Spurs have umpteen players cup tied tomorrow. I support Chelsea and am married to a Spurs fanatic; I am rooting for Spurs as a mark of respect for London clubs. Chelsea have a lot of respect for Burnley too!

  • Marcus Dillistone

    Barbera Castle (in 2000), on Labour’s original values:

    “Our roots were therefore grounded in the demand for social justice and an end to the gross inequalities between rich and poor. We wanted a society in which everyone could fulfil themselves, and with compassion for those who were left behind.

    Those values are just as relevant today. Of course methods must change, but values should not. “Modernisation” must not be used as a cloak for materialism.”

    Do this and you’ll marginalise the Lib. Dems. and leave the Tories exposed.