Islington elections 2018: Green councillor Caroline Russell wins huge majority - but is on her own again in opposition
PUBLISHED: 16:52 04 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:14 10 May 2018
It's "as you were" inside the Islington Town Hall chamber for the next four years, but sole opposition councillor Caroline Russell prevented a Labour whitewash by winning a huge majority.
All eyes were on the Highbury East count at the Sobell Leisure Centre today, with the ward the main focus of the Green and Labour campaigns over the last few weeks.
Labour were hoping to claim the elusive 48th seat from the Greens but the party held onto it in style.
The ward saw no change in terms of seats, with Labour holding two, but Cllr Russell went from third place to first. She won a huge 2,307 votes – a majority of 666 over her second place challenger. In 2014, she only just scraped in third, winning a seat by eight votes.
Fellow Green candidate Benali Hamdache was an agonising 73 votes off being elected with 1,555 votes, behind Osh Gantly with 1,628. Labour’s Sue Lukes, who replaced deselected Aysegul Erdogan, won 1,641 votes.
Earlier today Labour leader Cllr Richard Watts said the Greens had “shipped in national resources in a way in which we just haven’t”. He was referring to co-leader Caroline Lucas’s visit to the area this week.
But Cllr Russell called the claim “ridiculous”, saying the Greens didn’t even have national resources.
Speaking to the Gazette after her win, an emotional Cllr Russell said: “I am amazingly proud to have held onto my seat. That election machine wanted to get rid of me – they wanted all 48 seats on this council.
“They had councillors from all over Islington come to help Osh hold onto her seat and they realised they were in trouble. And for the last two weeks of the campaign every night there have been massive teams of Labour councillors in Highbury East knocking on doors and trying to get the Labour vote out.
“And the fact that they didn’t squash me is something we are really proud of as a party. And next time we are going to win.”
On the prospect of another four years holding Labour to account on her own, she added: “In the town hall we have a non-functioning democratic system with one opposition councillor to 47 Labour councillors.
“It’s too much. It’s exhausting. I’m at the limits of my energy and thinking about summoning up the energy for the next four years is actually really tough, so I need a weekend off.
“I sincerely hope the two Labour councillors in Highbury East are prepared to work with me. It’s not been an easy last few years and I want to make sure that works well.”
Cllr Watts congratulated Cllr Russell on her win and said he looked forward to continuing to work with her constructively.
On Labour’s huge 61pc of all votes, the most since 1974, he said: “We are delighted to have once again received the overwhelming backing of local people for our plans to make Islington a fairer place for all.
“Today’s result sends a clear message to the Tory government that local people reject their unfair policies – especially their massive cuts to local police.
“This is one of the best results in Islington Labour’s history, with our share of the vote increasing to its highest level since 1974.
“That is a remarkable achievement, especially given that over the last eight years we have had to cope with the largest peace-time cuts to the council’s funding.
“We will, of course, remain an open, transparent and listening council – putting the views and concerns of local people at the heart of all that we do.”
The Lib Dems, who were also hoping to fare well in Highbury East, were left well behind. Former council leader Terry Stacy performed the best and he only received 887 votes.
Overall the Lib Dem vote fell by 2pc on 2014. The Green vote also fell overall, down 3pc from four years ago. The Tories’ percentage stayed the same but they received 337 more votes.