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Labour councillor claims ‘tide is turning’ after historic election victory

Pancho Lewis becomes the party’s first councillor to represent the West End in ward described as Westminster Conservatives’ ‘jewel in the crown’

11 May, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Labour’s Pancho Lewis (centre), with Timothy Barnes, left, and Jonathan Glanz for the Conservatives

THE first Labour councillor to represent the West End in history believes the council election results have proved the “tide is changing”.

Pancho Lewis was elected in the early hours of Friday following a major push from Momentum activists in the days before the vote.

The ward – spanning Fitzrovia, Soho and Mayfair – is the country’s biggest earner in terms of businesses and has been described as the “jewel in the crown” of Westminster Conservatives.

Labour edged in after a tight result that saw five candidates split by just 73 votes.

Cllr Lewis said: “There’s no doubt that the tide is turning and Labour is becoming more and more popular in London. Overall, even though the Conservatives have significantly more seats than us, the vote share across the borough was neck-and-neck, with 41.1 per cent going to us and 42.8 per cent to the Tories.”

He added: “I think our campaign has helped change the terms of the debate.

“Residents feel like the Conservative council has turned its back on the West End, choosing to side with vested interests and property developers instead of the local community.”

Senior Conservatives had been talking up the results on the night, saying that Westminster voters had firmly rejected the “nasty, nasty politics” of the “hard left”.

But a look at the vote share figures show that Labour’s poll across Westminster was little more than 2,700 votes fewer than the Conservatives.

In West End, Labour got 2,858 votes overall to 2,831 for the Tories.

The count at the old Royal Horticultural Hall 

Glenys Roberts, the former West End Conservative, who was deselected shortly before the election and urged voters to back the Campaign Against Pedestrianisation party instead, said: “The jewel in Westminster City Council’s crown and London’s powerhouse, the UK’s big earner, this sends a message that capitalism without compassion will not do – that community is more powerful than careerism and we all deserve much more.”

The final results, were declared around 5am in Lindley Hall, Pimlico, returning 41 Conservative councillors in Westminster, to Labour’s 19 – a gain of just four seats by the opposition.

Following high-profile visits from Emily Thornberry and Owen Jones there was a sense of dejection among the Labour supporters on the night.

The Labour MP for Westminster North, Karen Buck, told TV cameras that it had always been a big ask for Labour with so many “high-swing wards”.

Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster, Mark Field, said he had not believed the campaign hype about Labour taking the council.

Murad Qureshi, the former London Assembly Member, was one of three Labour candidates defeated in Little Venice, in what had been a target ward for Labour.

In Queen’s Park, Hamza Taouzzale, the former Youth MP, was elected at the age of 18.

In Bayswater Maggie Carman was elected, the first Labour representative since 1986, while in Maida Vale, Geoff Barraclough, Rita Begum and Nafsika Butler-Thalassis took an unexpected clean- sweep for Labour.

Mr Barraclough said: “We were helped that Rita Begum had already established herself as a very popular local councillor but this result was also a verdict on the government’s bungling of Brexit, the CityWest Homes shambles and the Robert Davis scandal.

“It was clear from the response we got at the doorstep that the citizens want change.”

Adam Hug, leader of the Labour group, admitted he was not “dancing on the ceiling” after the election results were finalised in the early hours of Friday, but that he was also happy with Labour’s performance.

Yesterday (Thursday), he said: “I think my overall reaction is that I’m very pleased 41 per cent of Westminster residents put their trust in Labour but that, of course, we are disappointed we came up narrowly short in terms of further seats in Churchill, West End, Bayswater and elsewhere. During the campaign we have pushed the Conservatives to make commitments on reforming the planning system and affordable housing which we will seek to hold them to.”

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