Published: 25 May, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
THE fight for second place in the next Town Hall elections has begun after details of the London Assembly vote earlier this month revealed the Tories and Greens are almost neck and neck in Islington.
Labour is by far the biggest party in the borough, taking more than 50 per cent of the vote and winning in every ward.
The current Lib Dem opposition was pushed into a poor fourth place in every ward after suffering a collapse in support.
If they cannot recover by the 2014 council elections their anti-Labour vote will be up for grabs. But Lib Dem group leader Councillor Terry Stacy has warned that his party should not be written off.
In the Assembly vote, the Conservatives came second in overall votes in Islington, leading Labour to claim they would form their main opposition in 2014.
But the Greens argue that, as they took second place in 10 of the borough’s 16 individual wards – which will elect the councillors who run the Town Hall – they are in the stronger position.
They were only 700 votes behind the Tories overall in the borough; and came second in Islington North constituency with 19.8 per cent of the vote.
Overall, the Tories took 18.21 per cent of the Assembly member vote and the Greens 17.43.
The Greens have been most successful in council elections in recent years, with a councillor elected in 2006 while the Tories have not had a councillor for 20 years.
“Labour wants to say vote for them or you’ll let the Tories in,” said the Green’s Assembly candidate Caroline Allen, who lives in Islington. “It’s a tactic they’ve tried before with some success. They want to portray us as anti-car. But people are realising that the environment and social justice are tied up together. We are the second party in many parts of Islington.”
Labour analysts said, however, that the Tory share of the vote was rising in Islington while the Greens were standing still and were “way off” actually winning a seat.
“The results are a clear endorsement from the people in Islington of Labour’s fairness agenda on the council and standing up against the Coalition government nationally,” Labour councillor Paul Smith said.
“But we will have to campaign strongly in 2014 against the Tories in key wards.”
He pointed to the Mayoral vote (in which the Tories’ Boris Johnson defeated Labour’s Ken Livingstone), which saw the Tories perform better.
They were only a handful of votes behind Labour in three wards – St Peter’s, Canonbury and Barnsbury.
Cllr Stacy insists that Islington politics is a “two-horse race” between Labour and the Lib Dems and that his party should not be written off.
“They were wrong in 2008 when they spun that the Tories were second, and they were wrong in 2010 and they will be wrong in 2014,” he said.
“Our results weren’t great, we’re honest about that. But we will bounce back in 2014. When you’re in government nationally you have to make tough decisions and expect unpopularity.”
Conservative Party spokesman Nick Clarke said he was being cautious about the results.
“We usually do well in those three wards, but not well enough,” he said.
The Greens’ share of the London Assembly vote rose by two per cent from 2008, Labour’s was up by 15.54 per cent while the Tories fell by 2.7 per cent and the Lib Dems were down by nearly 11 per cent.