Labour failed to wipe out the opposition on Greenwich Council in yesterday’s election – with the Conservatives successfully defending all nine of their council seats.
Just as before the poll, Labour ended a long night of counting with 42 out of 51 seats – one fewer than they won in 2014’s election.
With rumours circulating surrounding the future of council leader Denise Hyland, the result will add to demands for changes in the way Greenwich is won, with deputy leader Danny Thorpe and housing cabinet member Averil Lekau expected to contest the Labour leadership.
The Greens more than doubled their vote tally in Peninsula ward, but Labour incumbents Stephen Brain, Chris Lloyd and Denise Scott-McDonald increased their numbers to finish comfortably ahead.
Appropriately for an election campaign dominated by the fallout from the council’s decision to allow a polluting cruise terminal in east Greenwich, a huge liner passed the count at the Waterfront Leisure Centre at 3am.
In Plumstead and Glyndon wards, the Plumstead Party pushed the Tories into third place, while in Charlton, the Greens and Women’s Equality Party took second and third in front of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems finished a strong second in Greenwich West.
A huge number of split votes – people spreading their vote across two or three different parties – meant it was nearly 4.30am before the first result was declared, with the process not finished until 7am.
With other London boroughs declaring results from 2am, it seems the tricky-to-count split votes may now be a particular feature of Greenwich politics.
Council staff drafted in to work on the count – all wearing t-shirts bearing the motto “Royal Greenwich – Everybody Counts” – found themselves counting the split wards by lining ballot papers up over a grid in an attempt to save time.
The Conservatives, who had been braced for losses, will be celebrating holding onto their toeholds in the south of the borough and in Blackheath Westcombe, where popular local councillor Geoff Brighty held onto his seat. Brighty, now entering his 29th year as a councillor, finished 106 votes ahead of Labour’s Shahiba Shahzad – the same number as backed Monster Raving Loony candidate Trevor Allman.
In Eltham North, fewer than 60 votes separated the first and fourth-placed candidates. Tory Charlie Davis (2,195), Labour’s Linda Bird (2,176) and Tory Spencer Drury (2,166) were all re-elected, with Labour’s Steve Offord – who fought here after being deselected in Abbey Wood – notching up 2,139.
Offord, a close ally of former leader Chris Roberts, had been due to be the council’s representative on housing company Meridian Home Start.
But it was in Eltham South – with only a handful of results in it in 2014 – where the Tories really pushed Labour back, with Matt Clare, Nigel Fletcher and Pat Greenwell comfortably ahead of the competition. It marks a return to the council for Fletcher, who lost his seat in 2014; while for Greenwell, who will be the Tories’ only female councillor, it will be sweet revenge after being mocked by Labour cabinet members for asking public questions in the council chamber.
The confused national picture will have contributed at least as much to the result as local factors – but the high-profile Green and Plumstead Party campaigns split Labour’s resources as it aimed for the prized Eltham seats.
One observer at the count speculated that Labour’s poor election leaflets may have contributed to their failure to succeed. “The Tories put out different material in every ward, but Labour’s just seemed generic – it was as if they didn’t have anything successes to tell people about,” 853 was told.
Another pointed fingers at the high command in the Labour party for not allowing existing councillors and candidates room to tailor their own messages.
While the Plumstead Party’s second place finishes were well behind Labour, they will feel vindicated in standing and have a platform to push on for new campaigns.
Greens may feel deflated by their Peninsula result, but they have established themselves as a force for change in the area – even if they have to do it from outside the council.
Similarly, the Liberal Democrats’ finish in Greenwich West gives them a platform they have lacked for some years – even if they continued to finish very poorly elsewhere.
With a number of new faces on the council, while the political make-up of the council remains exactly the same, the personalities will be different. But voters will have to wait a few more days to discover who will run it, and how it will be run for the next four years.
Thank you for the huge number of kind words about this site’s election coverage. 853 is taking a few days off for a lie-down – but please feel free to discuss the results and your experiences of the election in the comments below.
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