Lisa Forbes, Labour: Signs of change in Peterborough
This year in Peterborough, ward boundaries were changed and as a result the number of councillors increased from 57 to 60. When boundaries are re-drawn, every councillor must automatically seek re-election. New wards were created in what are traditionally Tory heartlands, resulting in the Tories gaining a 1 seat majority on the council.
This was then lauded by David Cameron and the MP for Peterborough as the only Conservative council gain in the country, failing to mention that this wouldn’t have happened had the ward boundaries not been gerrymandered.
What wasn’t reported was that in Stewart Jackson’s parliamentary constituency of Peterborough, the Conservatives now have fewer councillors than Labour. The constituency is slipping from his fingers whilst he busily spins a positive result for himself. In Park Ward where Stewart resides and should expect strong support, the residents have rejected him as Labour took first and second place with the hardworking John Shearman and Richard Ferris, whilst John Peach, who’s Mayoralty and all the publicity that goes with it, only just scraped third and with only 10 votes in it.
The other story of the night for me was that UKIP now have no councillors at all in the Peterborough constituency. They lost both of their seats. The UKIP leader went on to admit that their candidates were not good enough and they had struggled to find people prepared to stand for them.
Meanwhile, in London, the fight was on for who would become Mayor of our capital. It was so pleasing that the dog whistle, divisive politics of the Tory campaign failed to resonate with savvy Londoners as the Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith, suffered a heavy blow and was defeated by Labour’s Sadiq Khan.
Before becoming an MP, Sadiq was a human rights lawyer. He’s the son of a bus driver who understands the struggle many of us face on a day to day basis because he lived it as he grew up on a South London council estate. I’ve met Sadiq, he came to Peter borough to help me campaign during the 2015 general election. He is down to earth, gracious, and as British as they come. I didn’t recognise the image the Tories were trying to portray in people’s minds at all. The Tory campaign was as dirty as they get as they tried to tarnish and smear Sadiq’s reputation by linking him to Islamic extremists in the hope of putting fear into voters’ minds. It backfired spectacularly as the public saw through their tactics and gave Sadiq a resounding victory at the ballot box. On the 5th of May, decency and democracy were the winners in London.
In the Eastern region, Labour not only held on to councils they control, but in many, we solidified support and made gains. This all happened despite prophecies of a Labour meltdown under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Jeremy too is vilified, but to Tory and right wing media dismay, he remains a popular figure, not only with the membership of our party, but the electorate as a whole.
That just leaves me to thank all of those who took the time and trouble to go out and vote on May 5.