The Labour Party won an historic five seats in the Corporation’s elections last week, establishing itself as the first ever political grouping on the Court of Common Council. The Square Mile’s primary governing body, elected once every four years, is made up of 100 candidates across 25 wards who traditionally run...
The Labour Party won an historic five seats in the Corporation’s elections last week, establishing itself as the first ever political grouping on the Court of Common Council.
The Square Mile’s primary governing body, elected once every four years, is made up of 100 candidates across 25 wards who traditionally run independent of party politics.
But the 23 March vote saw four Labour candidates storm to victory in the hotly contested residential wards of Cripplegate and Portsoken, joining fellow party member Richard Crossan who stood unopposed in Aldersgate.
Just over 5,100 resident and business voters turned out to vote in the 19 contested wards, with results announced late on Thursday evening.
Labour’s triumph sees the party’s influence increase five-fold on the Common Council, following an announcement from the first ever Labour candidate William Campbell-Taylor that he would not seek re-election.
Joan Durcan and William Pimlott were elected among eight candidates to represent the Cripplegate ward, while Munsur Ali and Jason Pritchard took two of four seats in Portsoken. The remaining 95 councilmen were elected as Independents.
Peter Kenyon, chair of the Labour Party’s City branch, said they were “elated” with the victory in an area traditionally dominated by Conservative views.
“Who would have imagined, in light of of what’s going on nationally, that we could increase by a factor of five,” he said.
“I think it’s pretty clear from the results in Cripplegate and Portsoken that residents’ voices have been heard and a means of expression has been offered.”
The Labour Party has been fielding candidates in the City since 2005, campaigning heavily on social issues like pollution, social housing affordability and the London living wage, but remaining quiet on policies specific to financial services, which Mr Kenyon labelled “beyond the control of the Corporation”.
Though the party now holds only a tiny minority of the seats, the results are enough to suggest the centuries-old tradition of political independence could be dwindling.
Edward Lord OBE, who was returned for a second term on the common council as part of a coalition of independents in Farringdon Without conceded the vote revealed failings on the part of the current council in representing the interests of City residents.
“If the current members had been delivering the goods, then they probably wouldn’t have seen the success of Labour candidates so there are lessons to be learned,” he said.
He congratulated the candidates on their win, but said the Common Council should remain independent.
“I don’t think having the mainstream political parties is helpful; one of the advantages we have is that we can work well with our neighbouring boroughs like Southwark, as well as the Greater London Authority without party politics playing a role and that’s the way it should stay.”
Mr Kenyon said genuine political independence on the council was “an urban myth” and said all candidates should run with a declared political affiliation, but dismissed notions that Labour would be the official opposition as “ridiculous”.
“We know there are kindred spirits among those independents, and it is our intention that we identify those with whom we share common interests and form alliances with those candidates.”