And then there were three… Greens grow after election wins in Highbury showdown

Two new councillors for only opposition at the Town Hall

Friday, 13th May — By Anna Lamche

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Ernestas Armstrong-Jegorovas, Caroline Russell and Benali Hamdache won in Highbury

THE Greens have stormed to victory in Highbury – successfully winning all three seats in a hotly contested election battleground with Labour.

With two new councillors – taking the contingent in the council chamber to three – the Greens will be Labour’s only opposition at the Town Hall for four years.

Retaining her seat for the third local election in a row, Cllr Caroline Russell will be joined by new Cllrs Benali Hamdache and Ernestas Armstrong-Jegorovas.

This clean sweep in the ward meant they unseated Labour councillor Sue Lukes, Islington’s safety chief.

And for Cllr Russell, the results draw eight years of solitary opposition to a close.

“I’m delighted to have colleagues – I’ve had eight years on my own. It’s been a huge effort and I’m so proud of the trust the people have put in us.”

She added: “They’ve come out in their thousands to vote and have overwhelmingly put their trust in us.”

The Greens nationally were also celebrating gains outside of London, and polling well in neighbouring in Hackney where they were the clear second in the elected mayoral race.

“It’s a really grim process,” she said, of Cllr Lukes’ defeat.

“It’s brutal and we’ve lost a candidate, Katie Dawson, [in the past] – we know how tough it is to lose a seat, but I’m really glad to have three Green councillors with me.”

Green posters could be seen on several balconies in Highbury during the campaign

While the Lib Dems were once the main threat to Labour in Islington and they even took control for a short period, Cllr Russell said it was clear that her party was now the main challenger.

“Islington voters have said quite loudly that they don’t want a one-party state,” Cllr Hamdache said.

“My feet hurt from 38,000 steps – I’m incredibly grateful for the support in Highbury.

“We worked really hard to convey that our super-majority Labour council needs opposition.”

He added: “The Labour machine is a big electoral beast,” but added that Cllr Russell “has done brilliant work as the only non-Labour councillor elected”.

The Greens can now form a “group” in the Town Hall, Cllr Hamdache said, given that there are three of them in the chamber.

This should mean more opportunities to speak in the chamber and some level of officer support.

“It means there’s a certain level of new responsibility and opportunity [for the Greens],” Mr Hamdache said.

“We’ll have a group leader, we can ask for briefings from council officials, and we’ll have more committee positions.”

Meanwhile, the Labour Party held Tufnell Park ward – the other voting district billed as one to watch on polling day.

Green candidate Devon Osborne polled 1,604 votes but was 124 short of causing a surprise result. Instead, Labour councillors Tricia Clark, Satnam Gill and Gulcin Ozemir will once again take their seats at the Town Hall.

“Devon will be a councillor one day,” Cllr Russell said.

And Cllr Hamdache added: “She’s exactly what councils need, a working-class young woman.”

Cllr Russell said her party’s target miss in Tufnell Park might be reversed next time.

She said her own first election win in Islington was by a margin of only eight votes, but this time around she picked up 2,282 – the most votes in her ward, and one of the largest results in the borough.

“We were able to build on my reputation as an effective ward councillor,” she said.

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