Merton’s newest Labour councillor pays tribute to late predecessor as he storms to St Helier by-election win

Merton’s newest councillor dedicated his landslide victory in the St Helier by-election to his predecessor, the late Maxi Martin, last month.

Labour’s Jerome Neil scooped 71% of the ballot on May 19, after a vote was triggered when Councillor Martin passed away on April 6.

The result represented a significant growth in support for Labour, with a swing of around 11% from UKIP.

“I think the result is a testament to the work that Maxi Martin did in St Helier,” said Cllr Neil.

“There would be no-one prouder than her. Her reputation preceded me when I was campaigning and this result is as much hers as it is mine.”

Cllr Martin had been a popular figure in Merton, having served the St Helier ward for 18 years, and many voiced appreciation for her work after she died.

AFC Wimbledon fan Cllr Neil vowed to fight to protect St Helier Hospital, which he claims is under threat as its chief executive, Daniel Elkeles, reviews its future.

He said: “St Helier Hospital is so important to our community and important to my family, since my grandparents use it regularly.

“Daniel Elkeles’s preference is to move it to another site, but it is vital for the people of St Helier that it stays here, and I will be banging on the drum about this.”

Cllr Neil, who works for Labour offshoot organisation Progress, added that as he lives in St Helier himself, his work on the council would directly affect him and that he will be wholly accountable to his residents.

Labour, who control Merton Council, took 1,436 of the 2,023 votes cast in the by-election, which had a turnout of 25.2%.

Conservative Susan Edwards came in second with 14% (282 votes) of the vote share, while UKIP’s Richard Hilton placed third with 9% (191 votes).

Asif Ashraf of the London Liberal Democrats (59 votes) and Green Charles Barraball (55 votes) both received 3% backing, with seven ballots rejected (four unmarked/uncertain, three voted for too many candidates).

Image courtesy of Jerome Neil, with thanks

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