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Camden New Journal - By RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 27 March 2008

Quitting: Paul Barton
Tory resignation sets up May Day polls battle with Greens

A BANKER has quit as a Conservative councillor, blaming increased commitments at work.
Paul Barton helped unseat Labour in Highgate at the 2006 local elections but, with the vote split, had to share the ward with Camden’s first two Green councillors.
The Tories confirmed on Thursday that Mr Barton was stepping down and that a by-election would be held on May 1, the same day as London’s mayoral election.
Insiders believe the Conservative strategy is to capitalise on a “Boris bounce” by timing Mr Barton’s resignation to coincide with a wider campaign for votes and Boris Johnson’s attempt to beat Ken Livingstone.
But party leader Councillor Andrew Marshall said: “It’s not that. We just don’t like to make voters troop out to the ballot box again and again. There is no scandal here – Paul has just had increased work commitments he could not have foreseen when he became a councillor.”
It is the fourth by-election in two years. The previous three have all been won by Liberal Democrats but the ward is not a key target for them this time.
Councillor Adrian Oliver, leader of Camden’s Green Party and a sitting Highgate member, said a candidate who had stood before would be announced later this week but it would not be Sian Berry, the party’s mayoral candidate who came close to winning a seat in Highgate in 2002.
He said: “We have had positive feedback for the work we have already done in Highgate. We have engaged with the community and they like what we have done.
“Highgate is close to the Heath and maybe one of the reasons we have done well there in the past is people living there are into an outdoors, natural lifestyle and support what we are doing.”
Cllr Oliver warned Labour supporters not to split the vote and allow the Tories back in, insisting: “It is a two-horse race.”
Richard Merrin, a former beaten candidate, is to defend the seat for the Tories. He said a leading issue would be community safety.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. I have been doing a lot of hard work in the area for the past 18 months,” said Mr Merrin.
Although Mr Barton, who works for Bank of America, sat on three council committees he was known as one of the quieter Conservative backbenchers. Any dissatisfaction with the party’s leadership’s decision to do deals with the Lib Dems was not vented in public.

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