Late at night on Sat 06May2017, while I was in Lincolnshire, I heard that the local Conservative party had selected Bim Afolami to replace Peter Lilley in the “safe” Conservative seat of Hitchin & Harpenden.
I was at the laptop at the time, so I Googled Mr Afolami’s name to find out more about him.
His website is https://www.bimafolami.co.uk/. Having loaded normally on 06May2017, as at 22:25BST on 10May2017, Google Chrome blocked access to the site because the site’s security certificate expired yesterday.
I found Mr Afolami on LinkedIn, https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bim-afolami-1331994. Two days later, the LinkedIn page had disappeared. A search for Bim Afolami returns no results.
From that LinkedIn page, I recall:
- His current role as “Senior Executive” with HSBC Bank plc (complete with the bank’s corporate logo);
- A series of corporatey-sounding law-and-banking companies;
- Some sort of Vice Treasurership at Oxford University;
- Some sort of internship or research position for George Osborne.
I found Mr Afolami’s Twitter feed at the same time. Four observations:
- The overwhelming majority of the content is re-tweets of journalists. I saw no useful original content.
- The majority of his re-tweets appear to endorse the social democratic narrative of the political centre.
- As at Sat 06May2017, his Twitter feed disclosed that he had chosen to follow the Evening Standard, roughly at the time that George Osborne had announced he was taking the editor’s role. As at 10May2017, the disclosure has disappeared.
- On 22-23Mar2017, he followed the New European on Twitter.
Little new information arises from other sources, including Conservativehome.com, a local newspaper the Herts Advertiser, a local newspaper Hertfordshire Mercury.
The outgoing parliamentarian Peter Lilley always polled more than 45% of votes in prior elections. Lilley is a Brexiteer (a stronger, more ideological version of a leaver: see Lilley’s generally negative response to Dr Richard North), yet the St Albans counting district returned 62.7% in favour of remain at the referendum. By constituency, Hitchin & Harpenden voted 60.3% to remain.
To the extent that it is remotely believable - and it probably isn’t - an on-line poll mounted by the Herts Advertiser reports that 50% of the readers that participated in the survey said they would vote LibDem, with Labour in second place at 23% and Conservatives in third place at 21%. As at 22:20BST 10May2017, the survey had 4.4k participants.
For the constituency alone, it makes sense for the Conservative party to field a remainer as candidate, to stave off a credible threat from any other party, especially the LibDems. The constituency has never tolerated independent candidates or UKIP.
On the evidence found so far, I would expect Mr Afolami to be a remainer.
However, it is his publicly-stated affection for George Osborne that really worries me. Mr Afolami’s choice to hide his publicly-stated affection with George Osborne within the past two days worries me even more. I suspect that many people recognised Osbo as toxic when he threatened us with an emergency budget if we voted to leave (LibDem leader Tim Wossisface said as much to his party’s conference in 2016). So why did Mr Afolami appear to wait until after he became a Parliamentary candidate? Did he need to be told by a party official/local why Osbo isn’t a good marketing ploy? Or has Mr Afolami belatedly realised what supporting Osbo might mean to his political career while Theresa May leads the party? My worry is whether Mr Afolami has the basic political antennae to survive a Parliamentary career, let alone a ministerial career.
What image he might project to the constituency during his campaign remains to be seen.
Until then, I sense big trouble before 29Mar2019. Project Sabotage continues to mobilise.