CHURCH STREET BY-ELECTION – 24th July 2008

The by-election in Church St Ward on the 24th of July called after the untimely death of Councillor Tony Mothersdale, saw for the first time in living memory a Tory Councillor for this ward in the City of Westminster.

Coupled with the obviously very disappointing result for Labour in Glasgow east, it is easy to write Church Street off as another casualty of national factors, but it is important that other local factors are also taken into consideration.

The turnout in Church Street was very low – 24 per cent – which resulted in a Tory majority of 303. More usually the turnout is around 30-35 per cent – a low turnout can have a significant effect on the results, particularly in a by-election. In this case, it is unsurprising that lcaol voters were feeling jaded and not inspried to vote, having only recently been caleed to the polls for the Londdon Mayo and Assembly elections just two months ago.

It is also interesting to note the figure for each of the three polling districts in Church Street Ward, notably that which covers the Lisson Green Estate where the Bangladeshi community voted for the Bangladeshi Conservative candidate. Therefore l feel the result had relatively little to do with national policies and more to do with politics of ethnicity in a London Estate. I’m not saying that the national picture didn’t also play a part, but local factoras can not be underestimated, especially in a low turnout by-election, which comes on the heels of a major regional poll.

I’m also sorry to say that the campaign was also marred in its final stages by the allegations of homophobia and intimidation. The outcome of further enquiries on this is yet to be seen, but most professional and principled politicans of all parties would prefer to see a fair fight.

Whatever else, l can sfaely say that Tony is spinning in his grave as a result of this outcome. As always we will need to consider carefully the implications of the loss of Church Street and work with the whole community to ensure that when we go back to the ballot for the ward in 2010, it will have a much higher turnout and return it to the party that truly represents normal people.