A former leader of Lewisham Council is among the candidates standing in next month’s Greenwich Council elections, it was confirmed today.
Labour’s Dave Sullivan is making his return to SE London politics, two decades after he quit Lewisham after failing to be picked as the party’s candidate to be the borough’s elected mayor.
Sullivan, who was close to Tony Blair’s government, helped introduce the mayoral system to Lewisham – where voters choose the person who runs the council rather than councillors picking a leader, as still happens in Greenwich. But he found himself replaced by Steve Bullock on the ballot papers after a bitterly contested election.
He then went on to found Renewal, the company that was embroiled in controversy six years ago over plans to redevelop land next to Millwall’s ground, The Den, with the help of his former town hall. While Sullivan had long left Renewal, the connection was seized upon by critics of the scheme. Lewisham later abandoned plans to compulsorily-purchase land near the ground after Millwall said the plans could put the club out of business.
The veteran politician, who ran Lewisham for four years and was a councillor for 20, is now running for Labour in the new Kidbrooke Village & Sutcliffe seat, alongside current Greenwich councillor Sandra Bauer.
On his Twitter account, he describes himself as a “forever Blairite”, and declared in 2017 that he would not vote for the Labour Party while it was led by Jeremy Corbyn. The following year he criticised Ed Miliband – now a shadow cabinet member – for the rule changes that helped Corbyn become leader.
If elected, Sullivan will be part of the biggest shake-up in Greenwich politics in two decades, with all wards being redrawn – some from scratch – to incorporate four new councillors. Most voters will find they are in new wards, many will have new polling stations.
Furthermore, Labour party rules designed to ensure more women come into politics – and a controversial selection process that saw some experienced candidates fail to even qualify to be picked – mean the council will look very different from next month, whoever wins. A lack of female applicants meant many were selected by default, without having to face a vote of local members.
Longstanding councillors Gary Parker (Charlton) and Clive Mardner (Abbey Wood) are absent from the ballot papers, while David Stanley (Kidbrooke with Hornfair) has stood down. All three have been thorns in the council leadership’s side in recent years.
Cabinet member Linda Perks, who has moved out of London, also leaves the council while married couple Sizwe and Rajinder James (Thamesmead Moorings and Plumstead) have also quit the capital. Two former planning chairs, Mark James (Middle Park) and Stephen Brain (Peninsula), are also departing. Labour’s Norman Adams (Kidbrooke with Hornfair) is also leaving Woolwich Town Hall, 44 years after he was first elected.
For the Tories, Matt Clare (Eltham South), who recently broke ranks to call for Boris Johnson’s resignation, is standing down for work reasons.
Labour have run Greenwich since 1971 and are almost certain to win power again next month – the real question is whether Danny Thorpe can hold on as leader once the new cohort of Labour councillors is in place. Currently, Labour have 42 councillors to the Conservatives’ nine.
While calling individual wards will be made more difficult by the changes, the Conservatives will be looking to hold onto their Eltham strongholds while saddled with the aftermath of the scandal around illegal lockdown-breaking parties in Boris Johnson’s Downing Street. They will also be looking to hang onto their one toehold in the north, where veteran councillor Geoff Brighty has a seat in Blackheath Westcombe, London’s most marginal ward.
One ward to watch will be Eltham Park and Progress, where Spencer Drury and Charlie Davis will be fighting to stay on the council – the new seat is, largely speaking, the old Eltham North ward, but shorn of many Conservative-leaning streets. Their Labour opponents will be incumbent councillor Linda Bird and Simon Peirce.
Close by, Eltham Page will also be one to watch: this is where the Conservatives started the campaigning against traffic measures that was followed by the Labour council scrapping a low-traffic neighbourhood and two cycle routes. It is also where a council homebuilding scheme has met with opposition from residents.
The Greens have long fallen short of their promises in the northwest of the borough, but the twin fiascos of the west Greenwich low-traffic neighbourhood and Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s Silvertown Tunnel could finally see them reach the town hall.
Matt Browne, Stacy Smith and Karin Tearle – who used to run the Belle clothes shop in Greenwich town centre – will be standing in the key East Greenwich seat, and will be boosted by the appearance of three newcomers for Labour – Majidhur Rahman, Maisie Richards Cottell and Rowshan Hannan.
The Lib Dems had been strongest in Greenwich West, which is now being split into two wards – Greenwich Park and Greenwich Creekside – although in recent years thave had been eclipsed by the Greens. The former ward will be one to watch, as it contains the now-scrapped low-traffic neighbourhood. One resident, Hayley Jeffrey, is so angry at the loss of the LTN, she will be standing for the Greens in Greenwich Park, along with neighbour and former Lib Dem Mike Sixsmith.
By contrast, the Lib Dems could benefit from anti-LTN feeling in Middle Park & Horn Park, an area where they once had councillors, and adjacent to where their Lewisham colleagues have been campaigning against the traffic measures.
Two new seats – Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich Arsenal, composed mainly of new developments – will also be worth watching, although their potential for an upset has been lessened after more traditional local areas were added to the original plans.
The right-wing Reform UK party is standing in seven seats – potentially harming Tory prospects in Eltham Park & Progress and Eltham Town & Avery Hill.
Labour and the Conservatives are standing a full slate of candidates, while the Liberal Democrats have at least one in each ward. However, the Greens are not represented in four wards: Mottingham, Coldharbour & New Eltham; Thamesmead Moorings; Woolwich Common; and Woolwich Dockyard.
Several groups represented in 2018 are not on the ballot paper this time around. The local Plumstead Party, which stood in 2018 and beat the Conservatives into second place in two wards, has been disbanded, while the three independents who stood in Abbey Wood have not returned this time around. The Women’s Equality Party, who were the third-placed party in Charlton in 2018, are also not fighting this election.
Labour councillors who are moving across the borough to stand for re-election include party veteran John Fahy (was Woolwich Riverside, now Kidbrooke Park), Chris Lloyd (Peninsula to West Thamesmead), Sandra Bauer (Glyndon to Kidbrooke Village), Sarah Merrill (Shooters Hill to Eltham Page) and David Gardner (Woolwich Common to Greenwich Peninsula).
Newcomers for Labour include two behind-the-scenes stalwarts, Jo van den Broek (Charlton Village) and Majella Anning (Creekside). Joining Anning in Creekside will be Calum O’Byrne Mulligan, whose brother Euan is a reporter for the News Shopper, a former local newspaper which ceased its Greenwich edition two years ago. Jit Ranabhat, the chair of the borough’s Nepalese society, is running for the party in Plumstead & Glyndon.
Elections are taking place in all London boroughs. In Lewisham, Labour will be hoping to repeat its clean sweep of all council seats this time around, while elected mayor Damien Egan is standing for a second term. Egan’s opponents include independent Roger Mighton, who interrupted an Extinction Rebellion hustings in 2019 with reggae music, shouting that crime and racism were more important than climate change. (Full lists of candidates at the foot of this page.)
Labour will be hoping to oust the Tories in Bexley – or at least make a significant dent in their majority. Their candidates include Nick Hair, the owner of the Kentish Belle micropub in Bexleyheath, who is standing for the party in Crayford ward. (See full list of candidates.)
Polling cards were distributed last week. If you are not on the electoral register, sign up at gov.uk/register-to-vote.
Updated at 6.10pm and again at 6.30pm to correct Reform UK’s number of candidates and to add more details of who is standing where.
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