WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Would-be MPs’ hats in the ring

Contest after Labour’s Steven Saxby quit race

18 October, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Christian Wolmar

THE West End’s first ever Labour councillor has thrown his hat into the ring for the Cities of London and Westminster candidacy after Steven Saxby was forced to stand aside.

Pancho Lewis said the constituency needed “a representative who lives here and is embedded in local life, not someone who is parachuted in from the outside”.

Cllr Lewis said he was the candidate who could win “in the most challenging circumstances”, add­ing: “Despite the West End being written off as un­winnable, we secured a Labour victory last year by more than doubling the number of votes for Labour from 2014. I believe I can win even when the odds are stacked against us.”

Conservative MP Mark Field has held the seat since 2002 while Chuka Umunna, who left the Labour and Change UK this year, is standing for the Liberal Democrats on a stop-Brexit ticket.

Pancho Lewis

Mr Saxby said he was forced to quit the candidacy last Thursday because a Labour Party investigation into allegations were likely to overshadow his campaigning.

Christian Wolmar, the transport expert who came second to Mr Saxby by just eight votes in a vote of constituency party members in 2018, has also announced his decision to stand. He said he had been backed by Lord Adonis, ex-Labour minister Denis MacShane and Maida Vale councillor Rita Begum.

Mr Wolmar, who lives in Islington, said: “I am the social democrat. That’s how I define my politics. The state can be enterprising. I believe in renationalisation of the railways. For me, the biggest mistake the Labour Party made bet­ween 1997 and 2010 was not to emphasise housing and to change the private rented situation. I am an old-fashioned Labour Party member. I get on fine with Jeremy.”

The former BBC journalist Paul Mason, socialist activist and author Liam Young, and economist Grace Blakeley are also rumoured to be interested in standing. The long list is due to be announced in the coming days.

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