General Election 2017: Losing Green, Tory and Liberal Democrat candidates target Islington Council
- Credit: Archant
Caroline Russell “gets” why the Green vote was cut in half in both Islington constituencies.
Ms Russell only won 2,229 votes in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North stronghold – down 2,814 from her 5,043 votes in 2015. And her Islington South and Finsbury colleague Benali Hamdache won just 1,198 – 2,173 less than the Greens’ 3,371 two years ago.
Ms Russell admitted this afternoon: “When I first realised how much the vote had gone down, it was obviously disappointing. But the overwhelming memory I have of the night is the politics of hope taking over from Theresa May. That, for me, is so important. What a historic night to have been part of.
“People have been so shocked by Theresa May racing towards Brexit. So this election became a binary Labour/Tory fight, meaning our vote was squeezed. I understand why Green voters in Islington would go to Labour. I get it.”
Ms Russell is the sole opposition member of Labour-dominated Islington Council, and she added: “I will get on with representing the people of Highbury East, and look towards the local elections next year with our growing activist base.”
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There were also congratulatory words for Mr Corbyn, who won the largest number of votes (40,086) in Islington North’s history: “Jeremy is an incredible campaigner who has inspired so many people to vote. Anyone on the side of progressive politics can only see this as a good thing. He only just lost nationally, but it feels like he won and Theresa May lost.”
The Conservatives, meanwhile, held much of their support as they finished second in both Islington constituencies. In Islington South and Finsbury, Jason Charalambous won 9,925, up from 86 in 2015. James Clark won 6,871 in Islington North down 1,595 from two years ago.
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And Mr Charalambous now believes the Tories have a chance in next year’s local elections.
He said: “It’s an illustration of our solid support base in Islington. We have something to build on in the future and the election next year – I certainly think we can win seats.
“We clearly have a bedrock that is holding strong. It was always going to be tough but I was moved by the level of support from members of the public. I’m also grateful for a fair and positive campaign from all candidates.”
The Liberal Democrats fought both constituencies on an aggressive anti-Brexit platform, saying Mr Corbyn and Emily Thornberry betrayed pro-EU constituents by voting for Brexit in Parliament.
But the message didn’t translate, with Alain Desmier (Islington South and Finsbury) and Keith Angus (Islington North) finishing a distant third.
However, they did increase their vote share from 2015. Mr Desmier won 5,809, up 980 from 4,829 in 2015. Mr Angus had 4,946 votes, up 962 from the Lib Dems’ 3,984 two years ago.
And Mr Angus said: “It’s not as much of an increase as we would have liked. But nationally, the Labour campaign went very well under Corbyn and that was always going to be reflected in the Islington results.
“Brexit was our core message, and it failed to resonate in the way we thought it would. We had ourselves as the party of the 48 per cent [who voted to remain in the EU] but people on the doorstep were looking beyond that. It wasn’t the issue of the campaign. But hats off to Jeremy Corbyn – especially in the face of an extremely hostile right-wing media and appalling headlines.”
Like Ms Russell and Mr Charalambous, Mr Angus is now looking to next year’s local elections: “We have to focus on taking on the Labour juggernaut and winning back those seats we lost in 2014.”