Friday, 04 May 2018 14:19

Conservatives sweep back to power in Barnet

Written by Nick Jones
Richard Cornelius, Conservative leader, celebrating his party’s success in seeing off Labour’s challenge for control of Barnet Council. Richard Cornelius, Conservative leader, celebrating his party’s success in seeing off Labour’s challenge for control of Barnet Council.
Barnet Borough Council is back firmly under Conservative control after the Labour Party failed to make its much-anticipated breakthrough and ended up losing five seats in the council elections.

Conservatives have run Barnet since 2002 and they can now look forward to a secure and fifth four-year term with their total number of council seats up from 32 in 2014 to 38.

Labour, on a much-reduced final tally of 25 councillors, lost all three seats in West Hendon and a seat in both the East Barnet and Hale wards.

Barry Rawlings, the Labour group leader, blamed the loss of seats on his party’s failure to tackle widespread complaints of antisemitism – an omission that he said had cost Labour votes in the borough that has the largest Jewish population in the country.     

After an all-night count, High Barnet was the last ward to declare, shortly before 9am.

Wendy Prentice (2,792 votes) and David Longstaff (2,764) were re-elected and they were joined by newcomer Julian Teare (2,605), but he finished only one vote ahead of the leading Labour contender Amy Trevethan (2,604).

In East Barnet, Labour’s Philip Cohen (2,399) was narrowly beaten by the Conservative candidate Felix Byers (2,429) but Labour held the other two seats, with Jo Cooper and Laurie Williams each securing 2,509 votes.

There was no change in the two other wards adjoining High Barnet where Labour and the Conservatives won comfortably: Labour took Underhill – Paul Edwards (2,635), Jess Brayne (2,556) and Tim Roberts (2,447); and the Conservatives held Totteridge – Alison Cornelius (2,862), Caroline Stock (2,810) and Richard Cornelius (2,800).

Barnet’s one Liberal Democrat councillor, Jack Cohen (1,279) lost his seat to Labour’s Anne Marie Clarke (2,224) in Childs Hill where the two other seats went to the Conservatives, Shimon Ryde (2,262) and Peter Zinkin (2,242).

Labour’s greatest disaster was in West Hendon where all three of its seats were won by the Conservatives.

One of the defeated councillors was Agnes Slocombe (2,078) who had served on the council for 36 years, having first been elected in 1982.

She was born in Barbados and moved to the United Kingdom in her twenties and married a bus driver.

The three winning Conservatives were Don Saira (2,196), Alex Prager (2,155) and Helene Richman (2,130).

Another defeated West Hendon Labour candidates was Adam Langleben (2,014), who is on the executive of the Jewish Labour, and who lost his seat by 116 votes.

He was dismayed that West Hendon residents had lost Labour representation on the council because of Labour’s failure to deal with antisemitism within the party.

“I am a proud Jewish member and have worked hard in the party to educate people about modern antisemitism and expel those who hold antisemitic views.

“I am uncomfortable in the Labour Party. Family and friends are no longer voting Labour. I have seen and experienced antisemitism in Barnet and we should expel people who are saying things in Labour’s name.”

“We must never have an election like this again. No community group should ever have their vote dictated by fears for their safety.”

Councillor Rawlings, the Labour leader, commiserated with the defeat councillors. He acknowledged that inaction by the Labour leadership to tackle antisemitism did have an effect on the result.

He said that Labour had been suffering a loss of support in Barnet for the last two years following the party’s failure to deal with the outstanding complaints against the former Labour Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

Richard Cornelius, the Conservative leader, agreed with Mr Rawlings that fears over antisemitism was an issue in the wards with a large number of Jewish residents, but there had also been a swing to the Conservatives in other wards as well.

Councillor Cornelius relished the prospect of the Conservatives’ return to power after the council having no overall control since March when the Conservative councillor Sury Khatri resigned.  

“The Conservatives will now be in charge of Barnet for another four years. After previously having a majority of only one until a few weeks ago, we now have 38 seats to Labour’s 25, and we are back on target to make Barnet the best place to live in London and the most successful borough council in London,” said Councillor Cornelius.

High Barnet result:  
Elected - Wendy Prentice (Conservative) 2,792; David Longstaff (Conservative) 2,764; Julian Teare (Conservative) 2605.  

Not elected – Amy Trevethan (Labour) 2,604; Ange Balendra (Labour) 2,386; Paul Lemon (Labour) 2,344; Duncan MacDonald (Liberal Democrat) 581; Simon Cohen (Liberal Democrat) 577; Sharmistha Michaels (Liberal Democrat) 481; Ken Rowland (Independent) 471; Charles Wickstead (Green) 425; Nathan Wade (Green) 328.   

The turn-out in Barnet was 4.37 per cent, up from 41.4 per cent in 2014.

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