Victor Rakhia Ismail, centre, with, from left, councillors Richard Watts, Richard Greening, council leader Catherine West and councillor Paul Smith
Published: 11 May 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
THE Conservatives – who have not won a seat on Islington Council for 20 years – are set to make a minor comeback, Labour Party analysts have predicted following the humiliating collapse of the Lib Dem vote in last Thursday’s Holloway by-election.
Labour’s Rakhia Ismail stormed to victory, taking a huge 57 per cent of the vote, the highest anywhere in Islington in the last 15 years.
The Lib Dems, who boasted three councillors in the ward just 10 years ago – now they have none – saw their vote collapse from 29 per cent in 2010 to a little over 11 per cent.
The Greens were also taking heart from the by-election result.
They came third, with a two per cent increase, and were only 58 behind the Tories, who were placed second.
Conservative candidate Jonathan Edwards – who fought an effective Twitter campaign – also boosted his party’s share of the vote by two per cent.
The Green Party was also boosted by results from the Mayoral and London Assembly elections held on the same day.
Islington is teamed with Hackney and Chingford to make up the North East Assembly constituency.
While Labour’s Jennette Arnold again trounced the opposition, taking more votes than all the other candidates combined, it was the Greens who gave the Conservatives a run for their money for second place.
The early part of the counting saw the Green Party’s Caroline Allen second for much of the day. It was only when the ballot boxes for Tory Chingford came in that Conservative Naomi Newstead finally took over.
At the close of the poll Ms Allen, an Islington vet, polled 29,677 votes, just 5,737 votes behind Ms Newstead.
It was a similar story in the vote for London mayor in the North East constituency, with Labour’s Ken Livingstone taking nearly twice as many votes as Tory Boris Johnson, who lives in Islington’s St Peter’s ward.
Johnson went on to win a narrow victory over Livingstone when all the votes in London were counted.
The Greens’ Jenny Jones also did well in Islington in the Mayoral race, coming third, comfortably ahead of the Lib Dems’ Brian Paddick.
Ms Allen said the results showed that the Greens were the third party in London and the second in Islington.
“What we’re doing in Islington is campaigning for things that people think are important, such as air pollution and housing,” she said.
“People are beginning to understand our position, which is that caring for the environment and social justice go hand in hand. They are not separate.
“We are also holding the council to account. We don’t have a party machine. If people saw our budget they wouldn’t believe it.
"I think people appreciate that we are local campaigners. But it was Labour who rolled out the biggest winners of the day.
"In Islington, the party increased its share of the vote."
At the time of going to press the borough breakdowns of the Assembly elections were not available, but Labour insiders said their share of the vote was “substantially up”.
In the Holloway by- election – called after Labour’s Lucy Rigby quit to fight for a parliamentary seat in Lincoln at the next General Election – Labour’s vote went up by 12 percentage points on 2010’s result.
Labour campaign organiser Councillor Paul Smith said that, from his party’s analysis of the result, he would expect Conservatives to pick up a handful of seats at the next council election at the expense of the Lib Dems.
“There are a few affluent wards in the south of the borough and places such as Bunhill which aren’t Labour,” he said.
“They’ve voted Lib Dem in the past, but now I think they are more likely to vote Conservative.
“Labour did much better in Islington than anywhere else in London. It was quite a significant increase.
"The Green vote is steady. It’s not a big deal. The story is that the Conservative vote as a whole in the North East constituency is down and our vote is up.
“Holloway gives a much better indication of how the borough will look in the future.
"The Tories will be the second party. The Lib Dems fell from 29 per cent of the vote in 2010 to 11.8 per cent.
"Ten years ago they had 50 per cent of the vote. That’s a huge drop in two years and a drastic loss over time.
"It’s quite a devastating result to lose three quarters of your vote in 10 years.
“Our share of the vote in Holloway has risen from 45 per cent to 57 per cent, which is the highest share of the vote for Labour in any council or general election anywhere in Islington in the last 15 years.”
The Lib Dem candidate David Kelly put a brave face on his poor showing, saying that his share of the vote was much higher than for the Lib Dems across London.
“I’m a local candidate and people wished me well on the doorstep,” he said.
“It was obviously disappointing but I believe in community. I’m not interested in going to Parliament and I will stand again.”
Mr Edwards said: “I and other local Conservatives have been spending time listening to what residents and businesses have to say as we are genuinely interested in what people think.
"Many across Islington are crying out to be listened to.
"During my campaign I built strong relationships in the community that I intend to build on.”
Mark Lim, chairman of Islington Conservatives Federation, said: “Conservatives are proving election after election that people will vote for them in Islington.
"Across London, Conservative-controlled councils have the lowest band of council tax and some of the best value-for-money services.
“Both Labour and the Lib Dems are complicit in steamrolling policy through Islington Council over the years without a care for the wishes of the electorate.
"We are now working to represent those who have had enough of this.”
Ms Ismail, a 46-year-old mother-of-four who works for a women’s charity in Manor Park, campaigned on a platform of tackling youth unemployment and homelessness.
Rakhia Ismail (Labour) – 2,352
Jonathan Edwards (Conservative) – 671
Claire Poyner (Green) – 613
David John Kelly (Lib Dem) – 490
Turnout: 39.5 per cent
(North East Constituency)
Jennette Arnold (Labour) – 101,902
Naomi Newstead (Conservative) – 35,714
Caroline Allen (Green) – 29,677
Farooq Qureshi (Lib Dem) – 13,237
Paul Wiffen (UKIP) – 6,623
Ijaz Hayat (Independent) – 4,842
(North East Constituency)
Ken Livingstone (Labour) –102,934 (first preference); 35,323 (second pref)
Boris Johnson (Conservative) – 54,302; (19,083)
Jenny Jones (Green) – 14,498; (41,074)
Brian Paddick (Lib Dem) – 8,462; (28,046)
Siobhan Benita (Independent) – 7,723; 16,479
Lawrence Webb (UKIP) – 2,634; 9,333
Carlos Cortiglia (BNP) – 1,887; 4,498
Turnout: 39 per cent