A Labour Westminster City councillor and mother-of-four narrowly missed winning the West Central Greater London Assembly (GLA) seat from her Conservative opponent last weekend.
The West Central seat has been held by the Conservative Party since the GLA was founded in 2000, but Begum’s result further narrowed the gap between the parties with the largest swing from Conservative to Labour (4%) since the GLA began.
Labour first began to make gains in the GLA elections for West Central in 2008 where Labour’s Murad Qureshi, who is a current London Assembly member, ran against Conservative Kit Malthouse who is now the government Minister for Crime and Policing.
Qureshi gained 13,330 more votes than his predecessor ex-Labour Barnet Councillor Ansuya Sodha, who ran in 2004, thanks in part to a 15.6% increase in voter turnout.
Since then, Labour have steadily increased their vote count each election.
Conservative votes have seen a downwards trend starting in 2012 when Malthouse ran for a second time before handing over to Tony Devenish in 2014 who has held the position since.
Labour’s 2012 GLA candidate Todd Foreman and their 2016 candidate Mandy Richards, made huge gains for labour of 9.3% and 4.2% respectively, an increase of 17,941 votes.
Rita Begum continued this upwards trend, with a 2.4% increase in votes to gain a total votes of 52,938 despite a 4% decrease in voter turnout from 46% in 2016 to 42% in 2021.
In 2016 there was a 9.5% gap between the Labour and conservative votes, Devenish winning with a 44.2% share of the votes.
This gap was narrowed to mere 1.6% between the two parties in the latest election, not quite breaking the Conservative party’s 20 year streak but indicating that if the current trend continues Labour could take West Central in the next election .
Begum said: “I am, of course, disappointed. I had hoped to break the monopoly in West Central and would have brought a fresh set of eyes to the affairs of the GLA.
“I do not pretend to be a professional politician and wanted to represent West Central residents from my experience as a mother of four children.”
Overall, Labour did well in the elections with Sadiq Khan keeping his position as Mayor of London, however they lost one of their London Assembly seats.
Begum said: “Whatever now happens, Labour has shown what can be done by an amazing set of voluntary colleagues and friends from Hammersmith, Kensington and Westminster Labour Parties.
“We may not have won West Central this time, but will continue to campaign for local people and their children in addressing their interests against the pain imposed by the Tory Government that has underfunded spending over 10 years in every aspect of our lives – housing, jobs, education, training, health, social care, welfare benefits and mobility.”
In his winning speech Devenish pledged to continue holding the mayor to account, prioritising sorting out the Hammersmith Bridge fiasco, building more homes, transport, and the environment.
Devenish told SWL: “I feel wonderful, it is a great honour to represent West Central for the second time. Thank you to every single constituent whether you voted for me or whether you voted at all. I will represent all of you and look forward to holding the next mayor of London accountable.”
For all the London election results visit London Elects.
Main Photo Credit: Rita Begum