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Council leader: Arsene Wenger saga taught me to quit while I’m still on top

Conservative leader reflects on election results and looks to the future

11 May, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Nickie Aiken

NICKIE Aiken says she has learned a lesson from Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger to quit before her leadership gets stale.

The Conservative council leader and Gunners fan was speaking after an “emotional” bank holiday weekend that saw the long-serving manager wave goodbye to the Emirates and the Conservatives win the council election.

She said yesterday (Thursday): “Wenger should have gone two years ago. As a leader it is a lesson, you should always go when you are at the top. Always know when to go. Always go when they want more.”

Cllr Aiken, who has been party leader since January 2017, said she became obsessed with Arsenal in the world famous and historic “Invincibles” season of 2003-2004 when Wenger’s team, boasting Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, could not be beaten.

Arsenal’s Dennis Bergkamp (photo: Kieran Clarke)

This week her council team – including Robert Davis, Mervyn Caplan and Jonathan Glanz – are victorious and with similar pomp.

She said: “I watched Arsenal a lot then when I was heavily pregnant in 2003-204. It was emotional on the weekend but I’m glad Wenger is gone. I don’t want them to become a corporate club. I don’t want them to go down the route of City or Man-U, getting all different managers in.”

Cllr Aiken was speaking the morning after the Westminster Conservatives met to agree a new cabinet shake-up. Reflecting on the election, she said: “Westminster has always been a borough where we’ve got fairly small majorities in some wards. That hasn’t changed. I was sad to lose Richard Holloway. But he was very pro Brexit in an anti- Brexit ward. Jan Prendergast too.

“I never ever take elections for granted. But I think Westminster Conservatives’ track record stands up for itself. People know what they are voting for.”

Shortly after the election result, around 5am on Friday, she had lashed out at the “nasty, nasty politics” of Labour and Momentum.

Yesterday, she said: “The hard left has infiltrated the Labour Party and I think people were concerned about that. We had Owen Jones and Momentum coming down to an event, which Adam Hug [Labour group leader] attended. That was an interesting decision of his. There are reports from Labour and Conservative voters of nasty comments, and anti-Semitic feelings.”

Some Momentum canvassing ‘excessive’, said Cllr Aiken 

When asked for more specifics, she said: “Some people had their doors knocked on four times. This is excessive. It is ridiculous… puts people off politics.”

After the results came in, she told TV cameras: “Labour were coming into this election saying they were going to take it, but they were nowhere near taking it. It is a message to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, that their nasty, nasty politics are not welcome here in Westminster. They threw everything at us. We had Momentum for weeks on end. The message is very clear: 41 seats in Westminster.”

Looking to the future, she said: “We are going to go ahead with how we laid it out in the manifesto. We are going to build more affordable homes, with the largest council house building programme in a generation. We are going to tackle our air problem and give people better air. We are going to keep the streets clean, and bin collections and we are going to ensure Westminster is the best place in London. And all for the lowest council tax in the country.”

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