“Decades in the making”: reaction as Wandsworth Council turns to Labour

The Labour Party’s 44 year wait for control over Wandsworth Council ended early this morning as they secured 35 elected councillors, to the Conservative’s 22.

Wandsworth had been the prized council of Margaret Thatcher ever since it turned blue in 1978.

It remained a Conservative stronghold for decades after that but now the newly appointed Wandsworth Council leader Simon Hogg brings with him a changing of the guard, creating a huge momentum swing in British politics.

“This has been an incredible night, way beyond my expectations,” Hogg said. “This has been decades in the making for us.

“The hard work starts tomorrow. We’ll build that compassionate council that truly listens to you.

“We’re going to build genuinely affordable homes and safer, greener streets.”

The potential for a Labour victory had been brewing earlier in the night.

Tony Belton, a Labour Councillor for over 50 years, led the party back in 1978 when the Conservatives first took Wandsworth.

His appearance here tonight signalled a turning of the tide and he was swift to predict the final outcome, hours before it was announced.

“There’s definitely something special coming,” Belton said. “It’s been a good night. I’m more optimistic than most, even now.

“I think we’re going to get very near to 40 seats and that could leave the Tories with 18, as one Independent will win.”

The scandals surrounding the premiership of Boris Johnson, including partygate and the growing cost of living crisis, have been laid as potential contributors to a Conservative loss, but Belton contended another factor was at play in Wandsworth.

“These three constituencies were overwhelmingly the most pro-European in the country and they could not stand Boris right from the off,” he said.

“And of course, his performance in the last two or three years means that he’s even more of a liability in Wandsworth.

“I’m sure the way he has acted has had a sway in this election, but I doubt it’s had a bigger impact than Brexit, which is so unpopular here.”

Ravi Govindia, the outgoing Wandsworth Conservative Council leader, said that these factors linked to the national government were unfairly being placed at the feet of the local Conservative Council.

After retaining his spot in the East Putney Ward, he told the BBC: “Other events have clouded the judgements of people in Wandsworth.”

When pressured on what he meant by other events, he explained that the local Conservative campaign in the council elections was separate from the national government and should have been treated as such.

“Consistently on our doorstep the issue of Boris Johnson was raised,” he said.

Govindia then added that the cost-of-living crisis had likely encouraged voters to stay home.

In the wake of partygate, numerous Conservative MPs filed a vote of no confidence against the prime minister but other backbenchers were hesitant to follow suit, citing that they would wait for the local election results to come in before surveying the political landscape.

With Wandsworth, formerly a Conservative stronghold, now turning red, those same backbenchers have a decision to make.

And while the Conservatives were left to think about why they fell short, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was watching on throughout the polling results, applauded jovially.

“For the first time in 44 years I can say Wandsworth is under the jurisdiction of a new Labour Council,” he said.

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