Leonie Cooper hailed the natural beauty of her constituency and pledged to keep fighting for the environment after her victory in the Merton & Wandsworth London Assembly election this evening.
Cooper extended her majority to 8%, winning 75,468 votes to Conservative Louise Calland’s 60,968, despite speculation by Tory insiders that it would be a much closer contest with a low turnout.
Merton & Wandsworth was a safe assembly seat in the early 2000s, with the Conservatives winning four elections in a row until Cooper ran successive campaigns in 2008 and 2012, chipping away at the Tory majority.
Cooper said: “I represent the most beautiful London Assembly seat. We are blessed to live in such an outstanding part of south west London.
“I hope when I get back to City Hall I’ll be able to continue this work, meeting the challenge of adaptation and mitigation of the climate emergency.
“Merton & Wandsworth has gone through a really tough time as part of the pandemic.
“But we’re now in a position as vaccination has been rolled out for us to start coming back out and to re-establish living, working, and playing together.
“I would really really like to continue my work on environmental issues but I’ll need the support of my assembly colleagues.
“I’d really like to go back and serve on the environment committee, perhaps as the chair or the deputy chair.
“I look forward to working collaboratively as the assembly does work cross-party to deliver a brighter future for London and particularly for Merton & Wandsworth.”
South west London MPs rushed to congratulate Cooper on her win, with both Marsha de Cordova and Fleur Anderson tweeting their support.
Cooper’s work as chair of the London Assembly’s Environment Committee from 2016-18 may have been a boon to her campaign as it looks like Merton & Wandsworth voters rewarded candidates with a focus on green issues.
She hailed the Green Party’s rise London-wide, whilst praising the demise of UKIP.
Cooper said: “Labour Assembly members tend to work very closely with the Liberal Democrats and with the Greens so I’ve noticed there’s been quite an interesting increase in the Green vote.
“We haven’t worked at all with the UKIP people and I’ve noticed their vote is so low I can’t believe that there will be any UKIP or similar parties returns.
“I think the fact that Londoners are voting for assembly candidates who believe that we need to step up and meet the problems the climate emergency is throwing at us is good news for London.”
The Green Party came in third place with Dr Pippa Maslin picking up 22,793 votes, increasing their vote share by around 5%.
Maslin said: “Overall in society there is a growing awareness in environmental issues.
“We see environmental and social justice as inextricably intertwined, and we take a holistic approach in that way.
“With other parties maybe there’s a bit of greenwashing going on.”
Asked how she would spend the rest of the evening Maslin remarked: “I’m sure it will probably involve some prosecco.”
It was a bad night for the Conservatives who dropped 5.7% of their vote share since the last election in 2016.
Calland said: “I suppose it’s always a bit disappointing not to win, but I feel very positive, I’m very grateful for the 60,000 people who voted for me across the board.
“It’s been such an honour actually to be the candidate at all, and to have the opportunity to talk to so many people and get to know Merton & Wandsworth even better than I already did.
“I think I’m probably going to spend tomorrow sleeping and I think just continue on being a councillor at Battersea and looking ahead at Wandsworth Council elections next year.”
Calland’s defeat follows an unsuccessful run in the 2019 general election where she lost by 1180 votes to Labour’s Jon Trickett in the West Yorkshire constituency of Hemsworth.
The Liberal Democrats made small gains with Sue Wixley increasing their vote share by 4%.
Reform UK also put up candidate Roger Gravett who picked up 3080 votes.