Greens and Conservatives out to dent huge Labour majority in Barnsbury by-election

From left: the Green, Labour and Conservative candidates for the Barnsbury by-election on June 14

From left: the Green, Labour and Conservative candidates for the Barnsbury by-election on June 14 - Credit: Archant

After the EU referendum, you may or may not be delighted to know there is a by-election coming up...

When 47 of Islington’s 48 councillors have been Labour since 2014, the opposition battle lines could not be any more straightforward in a by-election.

Phrases like “lack of scrutiny” and “held to account” lead the way in the Conservatives’ and Greens’ campaign literature for next month’s Barnsbury by-election.

It was called after Labour’s James Murray vacated his seat to join Mayor of London Sadiq Khan as City Hall’s housing chief.

Mr Murray, by most accounts, was admired for his commitment to affordable homes as Islington’s housing leader since 2010.

But the Conservatives and Greens believe they can swoop to deny Labour’s candidate, barrister Rowena Champion.

A Tory? In Islington Council? It seems unlikely.

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Yet in the 2014 elections, the three Conservative candidates for Barnsbury actually finished fourth, fifth and sixth (1,908 combined votes) behind the three elected Labour candidates (6,068 votes). The Greens finished seventh, eighth and tenth with 1,241 ballots.

Next month’s Tory candidate Edward Waldegrave has, perhaps optimistically, used these figures to paint next month’s by-election as a “two-horse race” with Labour. Mr Waldegrave, also a barrister, added: “Their actions suffer from a lack of scrutiny.

“Inevitably this leads to complacency and bad decision making. I aim to change that.”

But the Greens, with candidate Ernestas Jegorovas, will be confident of a better showing in Barnsbury after two years of Cllr Caroline Russell being Islington’s sole opposition member.

At town hall meetings, Cllr Russell is never slow to hold her Labour colleagues to account. She has won praise for her motions, such as when she successfully called for the council to lobby the government to scale down Prevent, a controversial counter-extremism scheme in schools.

Mr Jegorovas said: “We have a real chance to get another Green elected to ensure Labour is held to account and the council better represents the voting public.” The Greens took 20 per cent of the vote in 2014.

They will be joined by Bradley Hillier-Smith (Liberal Democrat) and Robert Capper (independent). But with Labour’s Barnsbury majority, Ms Champion is the one to beat.

She hopes to continue Mr Murray’s work: “Everyone deserves a decent, affordable, and secure home, and that is why tackling the housing crisis would be my top priority.”

The Gazette will be running full candidate profiles in the week before the by-election, which takes place on July 14