Breaking news: Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts is to stand down at next year’s election, he has told the borough’s councillors by email.
The leader will have been in the job for 14 years by the time of next May’s poll.
Roberts’ announcement, 15 months ahead of the election, will now spark a battle to succeed him among a Labour group certain to stay in power.
A controversial figure who acquired the nickname “Dear Leader” for his management style, Roberts saw the council through 2012’s Olympic year and has been closely associated with the borough’s major regeneration projects.
But projects like the ill-fated bid for a casino at the O2, and the current campaign to build a Silvertown Tunnel, also caused fury in the borough, with the latter being rejected by the Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party.
Last year he survived a leadership challenge from cabinet member John Fahy.
4.30pm: Staggeringly pompous press announcement from the council, and his email to “partners”.
4.50pm: Roberts’ cabinet colleague Maureen O’Mara refuses to give a quote to the News Shopper, neatly illustrating the wide gulf between council and community that has built up under Roberts.
9.00pm: Curiously, none of the borough’s tweeting Labour councillors have said a word on Twitter about Roberts’ departure – again, a reminder of the “keep your heads down” culture within the group. One councillor has paid tribute, though – Tower Hamlets’ Labour group leader Joshua Peck says Roberts’ departure will be a “sad loss for Greenwich”.
But what will the leader’s next move be? It’s possible he could run for Parliament at the 2015 election – and his decision comes the week after the Tories’ attempt to redraw constituency boundaries failed. There’s a nearby vacancy already, as Lewisham Deptford MP Dame Joan Ruddock is already standing down, although frosty cross-borough relationships would make that unlikely. But is Roberts eyeing up Nick Raynsford’s Greenwich & Woolwich seat? Of course, there’s no suggestion that Raynsford, who’ll have had the seat for 23 years by then, is standing down. More pertinently, Greenwich.co.uk asked him about his ambitions in December. “It was suggested to me before the last election and I looked at it and I thought in all honesty I’d be bored,” he said.
Maybe a position with one of the firms which Roberts has worked closely with over the years might follow – but for a really off the wall idea, this tweet intrigued me…
Chris Roberts for London mayor in 2016? Stranger things have happened. Feel free to add your thoughts on today’s news below, tomorrow there’ll be some thoughts on life after the Dear Leader.