Unless local voting patterns shift more dramatically than even the most ambitious Kremlin-sponsored election tinkerers could imagine, the future mayor of Lewisham became clear earlier today – decided by a fraction more than 1 per cent of the total registered voters in the borough.
Members of the Lewisham Labour Party comfortably voted to put forward Damien Egan, currently the council’s cabinet member for Housing, as the party’s candidate for the mayoral election next May, which will run simultaneously to the local council elections. His nearest rival was Paul Bell, a councillor for Telegraph Hill and a Jeremy Corbyn supporter whose candidacy was endorsed by the local Momentum movement.
In the final run-off, after other lower-scoring candidates had been eliminated and their second preferences transferred, Egan registered 1,434 voters in his favour, compared to 911 for Bell. Such is the dominance of the Labour Party in Lewisham at the moment, that bookmakers – if they paid much attention to local politics – would probably refuse to take bets on the outcome of the mayoral election in 2018.
The two candidates eliminated in the first round were Paul Maslin, the current cabinet member for Children and Young People, and Alan Hall, the chair of the council’s Scrutiny Committee, who was widely praised for his role in querying the council’s backing of the controversial New Bermondsey development.
Brenda Dacres, the councillor for New Cross and the only woman to stand, was eliminated next.
There were 2,468 votes cast by Lewisham Labour members (the total number of voters registered in the borough stands at just below 200,000). You can see the full breakdown of figures here.
Egan’s selection was greeted magnanimously, on social media at least, by the other candidates. His campaign – which included well shot videos, and Google ads – seemed markedly slicker and better resourced than his rivals. As a voter-friendly, soft-ish left candidate, he is likely to sit well with the more moderate wing within the party, who feared Momentum might continue its surge.
Other high-profile local Labour figures, including the outgoing Mayor Steve Bullock, and Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander, who had kept their counsel in public during the campaign, seemed delighted with the result.
Egan paid tribute to the current mayor: “Steve Bullock has given Lewisham fantastic service over the years, and now we must prepare for the future. Lewisham, like much of London, has been left behind by the Tories and their pro-Brexit, austerity agenda.
“That is why it is so important that we have a Labour Mayor to protect the most vulnerable and fight to ensure we all have a stake in Lewisham’s future.”
“But whatever the Tories may throw at us, Lewisham’s greatest asset is our strong community. I care deeply about our diversity and tolerance and will always make sure Lewisham is an open and welcoming home for everyone.”
Egan’s one confirmed rival, Ross Archer, who was put forward as the Conservative Party candidate back in March, said: “I congratulate Damien on his selection as the Labour candidate and look forward to debating the future of our borough with him ahead next year’s election.
“Now is a chance for change in Lewisham, but in selecting Damien the Labour party has shown no remorse over its botched Millwall CPO by selecting the Cabinet Member responsible for it.
“Damien may be a nice guy, and I don’t doubt his commitment to the borough, but he cannot offer the change Lewisham deserves and needs. Damien is the continuity candidate and not the radical shake up we need at the Town Hall”.
Archer’s work will be cut out for him, as the following snapshots of the two previous elections indicate – as will it be for the Liberal Democrats, whose support spectacularly collapsed locally in 2014, as it did on the national stage the following year.
2014 Lewisham Mayoral election results:
2010 Lewisham Mayoral elections: