LOCAL ELECTIONS 2014: It’s a woman’s world in Wandsworth as number of female councillors grows


Sally-Ann Ephson won in the Queenstown ward and is one of 25 women now on the council.


By Naomi Firsht

I am Wandsworth hear me roar, say the women of the borough’s newly elected council.

In a night with few major surprises for the largely blue borough, it was heartening to see the significant success of women across the board.

There are now 25 women on Wandsworth Borough Council while five out of six of the Labour gains were won by women.

Fleur Anderson, one of the two Labour women who won in the formerly all-Tory Bedford ward, was delighted with this success.

“We deliberately wanted to see many more women on the council,” she said.

She attributes the Labour success to a relentless local campaign to ensure that the voices of all constituents were heard.

“The council became very unresponsive,” she said. “It was time for people to say they want a change.”

Ms Anderson said she and second Labour Bedford winner, Rosena Allin-Khan, were involved in a number of local campaigns, such as fighting for 1 o’clock clubs – toddler groups closed by Wandsworth – to be kept open, and have pledged to re-open three more.

It was their personal approach, newly elected councillors say, which made the difference.

“Friends do things for friends and this was absolute testament to that,” said Annamarie Critchard, one of the three Labour winners in the Tooting ward.

Sally-Ann Ephson won the first Labour seat in Queenstown since 1986. This was one of the most highly anticipated votes because of the problems caused by disparity of wealth and the amount of new development planned in the area.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “My late father was a campaigner and I know he would be very proud.”

Asked why she thought the traditionally Tory ward voted in a Labour candidate, she said:

“The community wanted a little difference. They wanted someone who will fight for them.”

But it wasn’t all rosy for the women of Wandsworth.

Former Conservative councillor Susan John-Richards left the party in 2009 after claiming she had endured years of discrimination as a woman and single mother, allegations which were strongly denied by Tooting Conservatives. 

Now a Liberal Democrat candidate for Wandsworth Common, she was pleased that more women would now be representing her old party on the council, but argued that it is still not easy for women who don’t fit a particular mode of appearance and lifestyle.

She said her experience as a Liberal Democrat woman had been far more positive, and expressed disappointment at the party’s poor showing in Wandsworth, while admitting it was to be expected due to lack of campaigning.

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