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General Election 2017: Brexit no threat to Labour in Islington, party insists – as Greens, Lib Dems prepare for fight

PUBLISHED: 16:43 21 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:37 24 April 2017

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking in February, will not see his majority drop significantly, a senior Labour source has insisted. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking in February, will not see his majority drop significantly, a senior Labour source has insisted. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

Green and Lib Dem candidates are no threat to Labour in Islington – despite warning signs the party’s stance on Brexit could damage it locally, a senior party source has insisted.

Caroline Russell stood for the Green Party in Islington North in 2015. Caroline Russell stood for the Green Party in Islington North in 2015.

Green and Lib Dem candidates are no threat to Labour in Islington – despite warning signs the party’s stance on Brexit could damage it locally, a senior party source has insisted.

He told the Gazette today that claims of Labour taking a hit in both consituencies had been exaggerated by parties that only had influence in one small area of the borough.

Green councillor Caroline Russell and former Lib Dem council leader Terry Stacy both live in Highbury East, the ward Cllr Russell also represents.

“I don’t think it’s going to be anything like the shock people are talking about,” the source said. “The Lib Dems and Greens are factors in one bit of Highbury. They have done the work there that we have done everywhere else.

“We’ve been out a lot and I have a pretty good take on where people are. I think Labour’s majority in Islington North and Islington South are going to be reduced somewhat but not massively.

“Jeremy and Emily both remain massively popular.”

But he added: “The interesting thing will be who finishes second.

Keith Angus is standing in Islington North. Picture: Keith Angus Keith Angus is standing in Islington North. Picture: Keith Angus

“The people who aren’t voting Labour any more are mostly not voting. I have not spoken to a single human being switching from Labour to the Lib Dems.”

Analysts have pointed to Labour’s defeat in the Copeland by-election as a sign of the times: no opposition party has lost a seat to the government’s party in a by-election since 1982, and Labour had held the seat since 1935.

But the Islington source claimed: “The areas of the country where we have seen surprise results in the past are where the local groups of all parties haven’t properly engaged with the community.” Nonetheless, the party is “not being complacent” about Islington.

Cllr Russell responded that it was not for politicians to call the election – echoing a criticism originally levelled at her by Mr Corbyn in his interview with the Gazette this week.

“In the 2015 General Election we had activity in seven out of eight wards in Islington North,” she said. “Volunteers are coming to us left, right and centre saying they want to be involved in our campaign.

“This is an election that’s not like any election we’ve had before.”

Pressed on whether her aim was to unseat the leader of the Labour party if chosen as a candidate, she said: “I am where I am. I live where I live. This is where I have lived since 1986 [three years after Mr Corbyn was first elected]. I think that we are living in very very extraordinary times. I think it’s a long shot – the election map isn’t propitious. Jeremy has a massive majority.

“I have huge respect for Jeremy but I do believe that there is an issue around the fallout from the EU referendum and the divisions that this is going to cause for our country.

“So I am going to stand up against Jeremy.”

She added Mr Corbyn was “incredibly popular” and that she had even voted for him in the past herself before joining the Green Party. But she insisted the people Labour claimed to represent in Islington North would be the hardest hit by the effects of leaving the EU, and that in her work as a London Assembly Member no one had been able to provide evidence of Brexit being good for ordinary people.

Newly appointed Lib Dem candidate Keith Angus told the Gazette it “genuinely isn’t the case” that no one was defecting to the Lib Dems from Labour in Islington North.

“I was in contact with somebody a couple of days ago who was a Labour member – on announcement of this election they cancelled their membership, joined the Lib Dems and sent me an e-mail saying: ‘Tell me how I can help.’”

The party membership in Islington North has surged from 300 to more than 1,000 since December, he added.

Mr Angus, a governor at Highbury Fields School for 10 years according to the Lib Dems’ official website, was announced last night as the party’s candidate in Islington North. The Greens will choose theirs next week but Cllr Russell is likely to be a frontrunner.

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