An intriguing bunch – but who gets voted in on Thursday? You decide!

Tuesday, 3rd May — By Ellie Crabbe

Polling_station

Tufnell Park Green Party Candidate Devon Osborne

“I’M a working class girl and I want to see more working class people voting for the Green Party – we are the party for you!”

That was the message coming out of the Green Party HQ this week – historically seen as more middle class – as Devon Osborne prepares to fight for a seat in the Tufnell Park ward in next month’s council elections.

Growing up in social housing in Kent, Ms Osborne said she would be expected to be a Labour voter, but that she swerved away from the party because it didn’t have the same “inclusive” feel as Islington’s Green Party – something that was important to her as a person with dyslexia.

“I think traditionally I would have associated myself as Labour, because I’m working class, but it looks stressful. Their outlook looks stressful. In some parties, there’s a lot of division.”

She argued her dyslexia has excluded her from certain political arenas – including being told she could not study politics at university – and had left her feeling “shut out”.

She said: “I’m dyslexic [and] they didn’t let [me] study politics. I wanted to but they wouldn’t let me because I would have failed miserably because I can’t write it. I’m great at speaking and very passionate about what I do, I’m very willing to put in the hard work, but there is a barrier. “And it’s a real shame because it stops people with real life experiences, being able to voice their opinions. And if you’re not considered an intellectual enough and if you don’t know the processes, you are shut out, despite what you might know, despite what you might be able to do.”

However, she praised the Green Party and in particular its only councillor in Islington, Caroline Russell, for never making her “feel stupid”.

She added: “The Green Party, you know, and Caroline comes a long way in this, whenever I have a question, whenever I don’t understand the process, I can I can ask and I’m not made to feel stupid. Nobody’s sighing.”

Ms Osborne said they had lots of policies that would appeal to working class voters, including wiping council tax for the borough’s poorest residents, many of whom were simply getting into debt as they are unable to afford it.

Another key policy expected to be in their manifesto focuses on bringing Islington’s housing stock up to date on its cyclical repairs programme, which she said was “very behind,” and boosting the repairs team by another six staff.

They have also been calling for pavements to be evened out to reduce falls, a particular worry for older people and those with pushchairs and wheelchairs.

 

St Mary’s and St James’ Conservative candidate Bex Kelly

“I HAVE voted Labour all my life, but a one-party borough isn’t good for democracy”, says Bex Kelly.

Ms Kelly, who will be fighting for a spot in St Mary’s and James’s ward for the Tories, says the current council “isn’t a Labour [she] recognises”.

Being born in Whittington Hospital and having lived in Islington all her life, Ms Kelly, like many in the borough, has always voted Labour. Until now.

As a mother of two, Ms Kelly says that seeing her children through school, including her child at special needs school, has given her an understanding of some of the issues in the borough.

“I work as an SEN coordinator for early years, which means I finish work earlier than many so I will have time to work as a councillor too.”

She says her progression towards candidacy was gradual, and that she didn’t immediately think she would join the party.

“I met the local Conservatives in 2020 when I joined the campaigns against LTNs. I voted Labour in the most recent council election and didn’t immediately think I would join.

I found that the Tories were working on behalf of communities and listening to people. They were open when I questioned them, which Labour weren’t.”

The Conservative campaign this year focuses on getting rid of LTNs, a policy which first got Ms Kelly involved with the party.

“In 2020, I was concerned about the way LTNs were introduced by the Labour council.

“I was shocked at the lack of response from the council regarding people’s complaints. it wasn’t a Labour I recognised as it sacrificed businesses, and the boundary roads, where typically the poorest people live, are the collateral damage.”

She praised Islington Conservatives for their work campaigning against the LTNs. Asked how this aligns with the Tories’ support of LTNs at a national level, Ms Kelly said: “The national party have supported us. This is about the people of Islington.”

Other Conservative policies Ms Kelly supports are the council tax freeze and providing insulation to homes.

Former Islington Labour mayor Rakhia Ismail’s defection from the Labour Party to the Tories was also a turning point for Ms Kelly.

She said: “When Rakhia called the Labour party out for using her as tokenism for BAME communities and shared her story of her mistreatment, I realised Labour was no longer a party for me.”

 

St Mary’s and St James’ Labour candidate Hannah McHugh

“I FEEL confident that Labour is a place to make a difference for people who don’t have a voice, especially women.”

Those are the words of Hannah McHugh, who will be standing against Ms Kelly in the St Mary’s and St James’s ward.

Ms McHugh is studying for a PhD in political theory, and says her academic experience has given her perspective on the structural injustices that affect everyday lives in Islington.

“I have always been an active campaigner and volunteer. In my work with homeless and migration charities, I have seen first-hand how cuts are chipping away at opportunities and reducing people’s access to support.”

As a younger woman, Ms McHugh is focused on making female voices heard and taking action to prevent violence against women and girls.

“There are significant challenges for women in public life. We have seen that this week with the misogyny directed towards Angela Rayner in politics at a national level.

“In politics there is sometimes an unseen burden on women to make an extra effort to have their voice heard. I want to make this known.

“I think the Labour Party is a good place for women, and we are making a commitment to a £2 million programme to make Islington a national leader of tackling violence against women and girls.”

Ms McHugh said that her previous job as a European Policy Adviser representing London in Brussels meant she felt distanced from the community and the issues within it.

“I wasn’t connected to the day-to-day adversities people in the borough are suffering.

“Coming back and reconnecting, I’ve seen how the cost-of-living crisis is widening the socioeconomic gap in Islington.”

She said that a clear message from campaigning is that people in the borough feel they aren’t being listened to.

“My focus will be to amplify the voices who aren’t getting heard, the people who are getting the worst deal.

“I have seen Labour in this council caring and fighting back.”

Ms McHugh will be standing alongside Saiqa Pandor and Joseph Croft in the ward. She said: “We are a diverse team and I think we will bring a variety of experience and expertise.”

 

St Mary’s and St James’ Lib Dem candidate Terry Stacy

YOU would be forgiven for thinking Terry Stacy might have had enough of politics, having been an Islington councillor for 12 years already, including two years as council leader.

But, eight years since he lost his Highbury East seat, Mr Stacy is back and standing for the Liberal Democrats in St Mary’s and St James’s ward.

“I decided to stand in this election because I am frustrated with the one-party council. There is no effective opposition and no one is scrutinising them correctly.”

As a housing association tenant, Mr Stacy says he has experienced first-hand the way council estates are targeted with fly-tipping and the problems with the Labour council’s repair service.

He said: “In our campaign we have door-knocked across estates in Islington. The council’s repair service is the worst I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve been in local politics for over twenty years.

“One council estate has had a broken entry phone since October.”

Mr Stacy raised LTNs as an example of a policy the Labour council had “forced through”, showing how they “don’t listen to residents”.

Unlike the Tories, the Liberal Democrats have not pledged to get rid of LTNs, which they say promote better air quality.

“The LTN debacle is a classic example of the way this Labour council is unwilling to consider changes. We support LTNs, provided there is proper consultation with residents.”

During his time away from being an Islington councillor, Mr Stacy has been in various roles, including a school governor and a chair of the trustees for the LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity Akt.

“I returned to full time work when I ceased to be a councillor, reprioritised my life and gained experience.

“Now is the right time for me to become part of an effective opposition.”

Mr Stacy said that 46 out of 48 councillors being Labour means the council isn’t a democracy.

He said: “In the town hall, they are supposed to represent their constituents but instead they are just representing the party.

“They aren’t willing to listen to people who don’t agree and they are blinkered.”

Related Articles