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Belsize: Lib Dems take seats from the Tories after dramatic recount

Confirmed: Conservative councillor Leila Roy has lost her seat

04 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Luisa Porritt becomes a councillor in Belsize ward after a recount

THE Conservatives suffered a major blow this afternoon (Friday) when a recount of votes in the Belsize ward revealed they had shipped two seats to the Liberal Democrats.

The loss of seats at yesterday’s (Thursday’s) boroughwide council elections cut the Conservative contingent in the Town Hall chamber down to just seven councillors – six men and one woman – and follows the defeat to Labour in Swiss Cottage confirmed earlier.

Leila Roy is following Don Williams through the exit door, nine votes short of qualifying for another term. She was just five votes behind when the papers were counted up overnight, a margin of defeat which led the Conservatives to request a recount. Kirsty Roberts was also close to a seat but back in fifth.

Instead, Liberal Democrats Luisa Porritt and Tom Simon, a former councillor who topped the polls in Belsize ward this week, will be inducted as new councillors tomorrow (Saturday) alongside new Conservative face Steve Adams.

Steve Adams, a new Conservative councillor, with Lib Dems Luisa Porritt and Tom Simon

Labour who had high hopes of making a breakthrough in the ward came seventh, eight and ninth, and had no need to attend the recount. Just over a week ago, the Labour candidates had been introduced as “Belsize’s next councillors” by council leader Georgia Gould at an event with Ed Miliband in Haverstock Hill.

Ms Porritt said: “We were the top canvassing team for the whole of the Lib Dems in London in the final week of the campaign, and since January we came fifth. We listen to people. We started our campaign early, and went around and spent time knocking on doors finding out what the issues really were. I think we spoke to people’s concerns in our campaign, particularly our crime policies went down well on doorstep.”

The winning candidates said their victory could not be explained purely as protest against Brexit.

“I don’t think so, because otherwise you’d see that everywhere,” said Cllr Simon, while Ms Porritt said: “I think you may have had some soft Conservatives and EU citizens who may have supported us because of Brexit but certainly our policies on crime and rubbish collection, people wanted to speak about those issues as much as Europe. Equally.”

The Chalcots estate – the tower blocks where residents were subjected to a mass evacuation due to fire safety fears post-Grenfell – is in the ward, and some Labour campaigners fear natural supporters who live there did not come out to vote in the numbers needed to gain seats. Labour MP Tulip Siddiq had won the ward at last year’s general election, breakdowns suggest.

Mr Simon, who lives on the Chalcots, said: “The evacuation and the fire safety problems must have played a role but it’s really hard to judge by the ballot box, because the votes come out in one big pile and you can’t say ‘these are all Chalcots voters’. You can’t quantify it.”


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