(Black)Out for the Count

Election results for Lewisham wards eventually came in the early hours of the morning. There will no doubt be a few tired/sore heads this morning! The full results are on the Lewisham website. Firstly our thanks to all the local representatives who have worked for the area since the last election (and before), commiserations to those who lost their seats, and congratulations to the new batch of councillors.

Polling Station

One gripe from us is the late results. Events didn’t help as there was a blackout at the Blackheath Army Centre where the count was taking place. Blackheath (re-elected) Councillor Kevin Bonavia tells us that larger venues were not available which slowed the count further. We don’t think it necessary to rush to the count immediately after polls closed but the council should consider how to improve the process – with short media attention spans and info on demand with social media, declaring in the early hours of Saturday is one way not to galvanise voters.

The headlines are that Sir Steve Bullock was re-elected Mayor (50.4%), with the Conservatives  second (11.1%) and the Greens (10%) almost pushing the Liberal Democrats (10.02%) to fourth. Labour gained 14 councillors at the expense of Conservative and Lib Dem representation in Lewisham (losing 2 and 12 seats respectively). The Greens retained their seat in Brockley. Turnout was in line with the national average at 37%.

For our bailiwick changes took place in Blackheath with Amanda de Ryke’s retaining her seat representing Lab after switching from Lib Dems mid-term in 2013; Pauline beck and Sven Griesenbeck for the Lib Dems lost to Lab’s Simon Hooks​ and Pat Raven in Lee Green​; Joani Reid is the new Lab councillor in Lewisham Central.

Our liberal tendencies are wary of a council so heavily dominated by one party. This places great responsibility on the elected members to act at all times in the interests of their wards and not fall into groupthink or put tribal politics first. Voters will not forgive a council that trades representation for party political posturing on either local or national issues (especially as we approach a General Election). Inevitably this will lead to greater scrutiny from outside (blogs like ours, the media) and for the council accountability is key. It needs to work in an open and transparent way and not ‘pull up the drawbridge’ at the first sign of criticism. We expect also that once the results have sunk in parties now without representation will still remain active and work to ensure the council is held to account. Remember the result was based on a low turnout (unfortunately the norm for local elections) and in 2010, with a higher turnout of 63%, due to the General Election , the results provided a different picture.

It is not for we Radicals to pick sides or draw political lessons from the result; that is for the politicians. We do caution about focusing on one or another issue, either local or national, to explain the results or to draw wide-ranging conclusions. It is now for the Mayor and councillors to knuckle down and address the issues that face the area over the next four years and for the Revolt to keep a watchful eye on our elected members.

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