Election daily: No, it’s not a *@#%ing farewell speech

35 days to go….


AS she came off stage at Monday’s full council meeting, Lib Dem councillor Flick Rea said in fruitier terms than can be printed here: “No, that bloody wasn’t a farewell speech”. Let’s forgive councillors who thought otherwise, for instead of using the final all member session of the season to highlight the failures of Labour’s years in charge – the kind of thing you might normally do right before an election – Cllr Rea was full of generous gratitude for the rest for the room. She thanked Georgia Gould, and the formal council leader Sarah Hayward, for not completely freezing her out, after the Liberal Democrats were cut to a single seat in 2014. She was still invited to events, and had the opportunity to campaign against HS2. There was praise for Councillor Andrew Marshall, the Tory turned Lib Democrat, and special thanks for Sian Berry, an unofficial partner in crime and smokes buddy on the Town Hall steps, who has had the similar experience of flying solo these past four years for the Greens. But no!,  she insisted, this was not goodbye just yet. Eyes down in Fortune Green.


THE local election campaigns have muffled the usual itchiness we have each year in April ahead of the Labour group’s annual general meeting, but rest assured it’s on the minds of councillors wondering who will be in the council cabinet beyond May. With Labour all but assured of being returned with some form of majority, it’s unsurprisingly said that the real power at the Town Hall will be divvied up in this private meeting of the winning Labour candidates. The debate on whether more Corbyn-flavoured left-wingers will – or should be encouraged to – run for a place on the executive simmers, and this is why Conservative leader Gio Spinella talked on Monday about voters potentially getting a different type of leadership team than the one they see at the moment. You should hear the number of times ‘Momentum takeover’ has been mentioned by the Tories over coffee. The ‘left’, if we are going to be dragged down to crude labels, have not had the arithmetic on their side before.


ONE of the less controversial decisions coming up at Labour AGM will be picking a deputy mayor to be understudy to Camden’s next first citizen Jenny Headlam-Wells, election result permitting. The grapevine has it that this could be Bloomsbury councillor Sabrina Francis, a gong-winner in the last New Year’s honours for her talent with social media. Bring it on bitches, as she might have once said. 


AND there are apologies for lateness for Councillors Oliver Cooper and Stephen Stark, the full council meeting was told on Monday evening. But where could these usually so very punctual councillors be? Somewhere so important they’d miss the start of the final all member sesh in the chamber before the elections? I’m being facetious: of course we knew where they were, they were hanging out on the campaign trail with former education secretary Nicky Morgan in their Hampstead town ward.

Inevitably, there were questions over how Remain supporter Ms Morgan felt Leavers would do at the local elections – it’s not a secret that Cllr Cooper voted for Brexit – but Cllr Stark brought things back to basics to explain what he thinks the vote on May 3 is all about. “Two years ago I was part of a fight against a poodle parlour that was going to open up in South End Green,” he said. “People were concerned about the hairs. It went through planning and we fought it tooth and nail. A lot of people we are canvassing now are saying that you helped us.”


BACK in 2006, London Mayor Ken Livingstone was seen as a vote winner for Labour in Camden, and he was brought to Kentish Town to try and stave off the challenge from the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. The ward now looks locked up for Labour – the leader stands here – but it wasn’t always that way. In these blurry pics of his campaign walkaround, you can spot a few familiar faces in the background, but it was also fun to snap him bumping into Sian Berry, now a councillor in Highgate.

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