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Record win for Labour at Camden Council elections

Gains for Labour and Lib Dems as Conservatives lose seats

06 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley

MP Tulip Siddiq joins new West Hampstead councillors Peter Taheri and Nazma Rahman on stage with council leader Georgia Gould

LABOUR reached a record 43 councillors at this week’s local elections, as new party leader Georgia Gould emerged from her first big electoral test with a dominant majority at the Town Hall.

It is the highest tally of councillors the party has ever held in the modern 54-seat council chamber era in Camden. It follows Thursday’s boroughwide polls, which also saw the Liberal Democrats gain seats at the expense of the Tories. Another key result saw Sian Berry, the only Green councillor, hold her seat, meaning once again four parties will have a stake at the Town Hall.

Labour has not had a group of 43 councillors since 1998, and back then there were more seats in the chamber to play for. It expanded its majority this week by taking all three seats in Swiss Cottage, which had returned a full Tory slate four years ago. Don Williams, the Conservative finance spokesman, was the major casualty here. Labour also took back the seat lost in West Hampstead when former councillor Angela Pober quit the party in a row over library closures to sit as an independent.

Thumbs up from Labour’s Meric Apak

The endorsement for Cllr Gould’s party – the first full local elections in Camden since Jeremy Corbyn became the party’s leader nationally – came without loss of any ground elsewhere.

“We had a fantastic result and got our first Labour councillors in Swiss Cottage for 20 years,” said Cllr Gould. “This is an endorsement of a positive campaign and a manifesto which promises to stand up for public services.”

It was also a good night and early morning – the votes were counted at the Somers Town Sports Centre until daybreak – for the Liberal Democrats who defied Labour’s attempts to unseat long-serving group leader Flick Rea in Fortune Green. Labour’s campaign team had initially miscalculated how the election had gone and told its own councillors in the ward that they were set to lose their seats. There were tears and anguished faces on both sides of split ward before the final result showed everybody had been re-elected and the ward had chosen Cllr Rea to sit alongside Labour’s Richard Olszewski and Lorna Russell.

The Lib Dems celebrate gaining seats

The Lib Dems’ big breakthrough, however, came in Belsize, where Labour had hoped to be the ones to gain seats in what had been an all-Conservative ward. It was here that the Labour council had evacuated all of its tenants from the Chalcots towers last summer in the wake of a fire safety crisis.

Liberal Democrat councillor Tom Simon and Luisa Porritt were elected alongside Conservative Steve Adams. The sitting Tory councillor Leila Roy lost her seat by nine votes following a recount on Friday afternoon. Former group leader Claire-Louise Leyland had already decided not to stand again in the ward, while the well-known Jonny Bucknell had been deselected by the party before the elections.

Key breakthrough: Leo Cassarani, Nayra Bello O’Shanahan and Simon Pearson take Swiss Cottage

A tug-of-war in Highgate also produced the same results as 2014: Two Labour and a Green. Oliver Lewis, the Labour councillor, was re-elected alongside his colleague Anna Wright. Cllr Berry topped the polls in a ward with a pile of ballot papers where residents had voted for more than one party. Labour’s Sally Gimson did not re-stand in the ward.

Elsewhere, Labour comfortably held onto its stronghold wards in a belt of central and southern wards, while the Conservatives did the same in its most fortified neighbourhoods: Hampstead and Frognal and Fitzjohns. Lib Dem Linda Chung lost out in Hampstead despite polling more than 1,000 votes.

Cllr Gould added: “Obviously, Flick and Sian had a strong personal vote but we went to every single part of Camden with a brilliant set of candidates. We took the Labour message to the people of Camden, and that’s to stand up against austerity and put residents at the heart of what we do. We will invest in council homes and tackle air quality, and now we have to get on with doing it.”




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