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Islington Tribune - by PETER GRUNER
Published: 12 June 2009

Cllr Catherine West: ‘particularly pleased
Upbeat Labour looks to Town Hall clean sweep

LABOUR claimed this week that, based on its share of European votes, it would win every ward in Islington at the local elections next year.
The Euro elections brought doom and gloom for Labour across the UK, but Islington bucked the national trend by strongly increasing the Labour share of the vote compared to the 2004 European elections.
Islington Greens won more votes than the Lib Dems, suggesting they might have more councillors next year. Currently they have one, Katie Dawson.
Labour in Islington received a 29.3 per cent share of the European vote, Greens 20 per cent, Lib Dems 19.2 per cent, Conservatives 14.5, UKIP 6.2 and BNP 3.5. Turnout was 32.3 per cent.
Labour councillor Paul Smith said: “If these results were repeated in local and national elections, Labour would win both parliamentary seats and all 48 seats on the council.”
Labour group leader Councillor Catherine West said the party’s success in Islington was due to a campaign for affordable housing, for more support for working families and a helping hand in tough economic times.
She added: “I am particularly pleased to get this support after our budget victory for free school meals for all under-11s, a council tax discount for over-65s and free leisure classes for young people.”
But Lib Dem councillor Lucy Watt said the European elections were a protest vote against the recession and MPs’ extravagant expenses.
She added: “In 2004, Lib Dems got less votes in the European elections in Islington than last week but Bridget Fox still went on to almost win the parliamentary seat against Emily Thornberry, with only 484 votes between them.
“The European elections are not indicative of the way people will vote nationally or at the Town Hall. The real story is that there has been no real Conservative revival in Islington.
“We know that a lot of people will vote next year to kick out Labour in Islington as a message to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.”
Islington North Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate Adrian Berrill-Cox said his party’s vote in Islington “stood up well”.
He added: “It has been a very long time since there was a Conservative councillor in Islington, let alone an MP. But the tide is turning and we will be contesting every ward in the borough next year, as well as the two constituencies, and aim to win.”
Islington Lib Dems welcomed former Clerkenwell councillor Sarah Ludford back as one of London’s MEPs.’


How Islington voted in the Euro elections:
Party Votes Share
Labour 12,428 29.3%
Greens 8,551 20%
Lib Dems 8,167 19.2%
Cons 6,170 14.5%
UKIP 2,639 6.2%
BNP 1,488 3.5%

Rise and fall of ‘5-minute James’

Former government minister James Purnell was remembered by his old Town Hall colleagues this week as the “five-minute wonder”.
Mr Purnell, who served as a Labour councillor in Islington for a year in 1995, was elected as an MP in 2001 at the age of 31 and rose to become Works and Pensions Secretary, until his dramatic resignation last week.
He urged the Prime Minister to quit in his resignation letter to Mr Brown on the day of the European elections.
Former Lib Dem councillor Margot Dunn remembers Mr Purnell as a man in a hurry. “I used to call him five-minute James,” she said. “He was five minutes as a governor at Highbury Grove School, five minutes as chair of housing, five minutes as a councillor and probably less than five minutes as a member of the cabinet.”
Mr Purnell has – or had – a flat in Carleton Road, Tufnell Park. Neighbours have not seen him since Christmas.
The Daily Telegraph alleged that he avoided paying capital gains tax on the sale of a London flat after claiming expenses for tax advice from an accountant. This he strongly denies, maintaining everything he did was within the rules.

Gun crime advisor takes anti-BNP fight to voters

COMMUNITY activist Claudia Webbe – a government advisor on gun crime – is to stand for Labour at the local elections in Islington next year in response to the BNP’s Euro polls breakthrough.
Ms Webbe is chairwoman of the Met police’s anti-gun crime group Operation Trident and a leading Labour figure in Islington. She was an advisor to former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.
She said: “It’s a sad day for politics when the BNP are allowed to represent UK in Europe. So many of us have fought for decades to rid racism from our political system and society. The success of this fascist organisation is a step backwards for real democracy.”
The election of two BNP candidates in Europe was a wake-up call, she added. “I had been considering standing for Labour in the local elections,” she said. “The rise of the BNP was the deciding factor.”
Ms Webbe criticised London Mayor Boris Johnson for cancelling the anti-racist Rise festival at Finsbury Park. “Boris decided there was no need for Rise,” Ms Webbe said. “Well, he was wrong. This is a critical turning point in British politics and we need to make a stand.”
She stressed the importance of putting resources into youth activities. “Black and ethnic communities are woefully under-represented in local politics and in government,” she said.

Brown ‘very much on probation’, MP warns

Islington’s two Labour MPs this week voiced their support for beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
But Islington North’s Jeremy Corbyn warned that Mr Brown was “very much on probation” and needed to prove his credentials by offering more radical policies.
Mr Corbyn and Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry both criticised colleagues, including former Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, who had called on Mr Brown to resign.
“Those who wanted to get rid of Brown had no alternative policy,” Mr Corbyn said. “They were simply self-indulgently pursuing personal ambition.”
The resignation of James Purnell on the day of the European and local elections was bad enough, according to Mr Corbyn, but Ms Blears going the day before was “disgraceful”.
Mr Corbyn attended the packed meeting at the Commons on Monday night where the Prime Minister appealed for unity in the wake of disappointing election results.
He said: “Brown admitted that he felt upset and depressed by the election results. But he was not prepared to walk away.
“He also admitted to human frailties and failings, poor communication skills and lack of contact with the parliamentary Labour party.”
In an effort to appease left-wingers like Mr Corbyn there was a suggestion that the Prime Minister might finally agree to a public inquiry into the Iraq war.
About 30 MPs spoke at the meeting, including former Labour leader Lord Kinnock. Mr Corbyn said: “Those who had called for Gordon to go, including MPs Tom Harris and Charles Clarke, didn’t mention policy at all. All they talked about was concern with image and presentation.”
He hoped that the meeting would indicate a serious change of policy. “I thought Brown should have stood for election to the office in the first place, but I didn’t want to see him removed in a coup organised by New Labour,” he added.
Ms Thornberry said that during canvassing before the European election she had met a lot of people who supported the Prime Minister.
“My impression was that people thought Brown a good man who was trying to do the right thing for Britain,” she said.
“The people who resigned ultimately only damaged the party. I was sitting in the front room of a party member of 40 years standing. What she said about Hazel Blears isn’t actually repeatable.”

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