Labour gained control over Westminster City Council for the first time ever in a historic win over the Conservatives with a majority of eight.
Labour reached a total of 31 elected councillors with the Conservatives only reaching 23 out of 54 available seats with a turn-out of 31.5% across the borough.
Westminster has been held by a significant Conservative majority since its founding in 1964 and the party had reached a total of 41 seats out of 60 in the 2018 local elections.
The unprecedented turn to Labour was a result of reckless spending on the failed Marble Arch Mound project and a response to the wider national scandals in the Conservative party such as Boris Johnsons’ involvement in partygate.
After Wandsworth, losing Westminster was another blow to the Conservatives last night and means the heart of the national Conservative government will now be within a Labour-led borough.
Labour group leader Adam Hug and Cllr for Westbourne ward said: “It’s a great night for Labour not just here but across the country and I think it sends a very clear message to the Conservatives locally and nationally that Labour is back.
“People who have never voted Labour before have voted Labour today and that built the victory that we’ve seen tonight.”
The focus for Labour would now be on addressing borough-wide issues such as rubbish collection, action against anti-social behaviour, affordable housing and the cost-of-living crisis, Cllr Hug continued.
He said: “I am very tired but elated. We are delighted that the residents of Westminster felt reassured enough to give us their trust and we hope to repay that in the coming years by working hard to help the community.”
The result was a blow to the Conservatives, who had been subdued all night and rushed out of the hall once the last results were announced.
Labour, on the other hand, cheered loudly throughout the count as they hoped to benefit from the Conservatives problem-wrought run-up to the election.
Hyde Park Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said: “There is no doubt that Partygate and Boris Johnson were huge factors and many Conservatives just didn’t bother to vote in protest.
“Some came over to us and of course we ran a very positive local campaign, focusing on the local issues that needed to be addressed and that struck a huge chord with so many people who felt that the Conservatives had been complacent.”
A Labour stalwart, Cllr Dimoldenberg has held a Labour seat in Westminster for 33 years, leading the Labour group twice during that time.
The main Conservative losses were found in Hyde Park and Bayswater wards which flipped from Conservative to Labour and in the West End ward, the centre of the failed Marble Arch Mound, which also lost one of three formerly Conservative seats to Labour.
The closest vote of the night was Lancaster Gate ward for which Conservatives demanded a re-count and further problems ensued when the re-count yielded different numbers and a third count had to be held.
As the last ward to be announced at 7am, Lancaster Gate cemented the Labour victory by having elected two Labour and one Conservative candidate.
Having won her seat in Lancaster by five votes, Labour Cllr Ellie Ormsby said: “The result just speaks for itself, we flipped a 10-point majority in Lancaster Gate, it’s incredible.”
Similarly, Labour Cllr Ryan Jude won his seat in Lancaster Gate by only two votes and said: “I feel absolutely amazing, we worked so hard for the last year and people in Westminster deserve better.
“My focus now is on climate issues, I convinced the Labour group here to embed climate action in our manifesto and now that we’ve won, we’ve got to do it.”
While early polls had suggested Westminster might turn red, the count was too close to call for most of the night as results only slowly came in.
Newly-elected Pimlico South ward Cllr Robert Eagleton said: “I always felt that we could do it and some people said calm down Robert, maybe youthful naivety but I always thought we could do it but I didn’t think that we would win by the majority that we have now.
“We’ve always thought we’d had a chance but I think the scale of the victory is amazing.”
In this year’s Westminster City Council election 164 candidates fought for 54 seats after the number of wards was reduced from 20 to 18 and the number of councillors from 60 to 54.
The Conservatives had previously held a majority of 22 with 41 seats against Labours 19 seats.