With Matt Pennycook resigning his seat in anticipation of a General Election victory in May, there are a pleasingly round 50 councilors currently sitting in the borough of Greenwich. So what can we hope for from the 51st, also elected on May 7th?
The incoming councilor will replace Pennycook in Greenwich West, a ward where the existing two councilors are already Labour; Maureen O'Mara and Aidan Smith.
And across the borough generally the composition of our representatives is far from diverse. The ruling Labour group make up 42 of the current 50 councilors - if only there were some easy way of working that out as a percentage! - and the remaining 8 councilors all hail from the Conservatives. The Tories are mostly hunkered down in and around Eltham where they are stockpiling beans, putting chairs against the doors and taping old copies of the Times across the windows; they're fighting for survival, not about to launch a takeover of the wider borough.
So, Eltham aside, Labour have things all their own way. And it shows. To be fair, some things have changed since the May elections. Back then, under the Dread Pirate Chris Roberts, we had bullying, little communication, zero transparency and the tax-payer funded Greenwich Time flooding our inboxes with propaganda. Since then, under Denise Hyland, there have been no accusations of bullying.
Well, Labour MP Clive Efford clearly still gets a bit shouty with his colleagues after a few beers but you can't blame Hyland for that.
So the current state of Greenwich Democracy is not at all healthy (see my handy graphical representation on the right-hand side, a classic Lib Dem tool! The graph, not me). What can be done? Well, starting with the election of the 51st councilor, we can begin to get some new voices at the council. Sonia Dunlop is standing for the Liberal Democrats in Greenwich West and would be a dynamic fresh voice at Town Hall and in that ward.
Sonia comes from an environmental background and her credentials are so good in this regard even the Greens applaud her! You can read more about Sonia below, or ask her a question here:@Sonia_Dunlop.
Standing for Labour in Greenwich West is Mehboob Khan. An ex-council leader in Kirklees no less, Khan only stepped down as a councillor in March of this year, despite having moved to London just under a year beforehand.
During his time as a London-based Yorkshire Councillor Khan has had the opportunity to spend many months campaigning for his Labour colleague and friend Matthew Pennycook. Khan has campaigned particularly actively in Greenwich West, where he very neatly bagged the selection once Pennycook officially resigned. So that was handy! So a dyed-in-the-wool Labour political operator, would Khan be new voice that Greenwich is crying out for? It's possible, but it seems doubtful.
So, a vote on May 7th for Sonia, is a vote to give Greenwich Democracy a shot in the arm, to start making Labour work a bit harder for their dominance and to strike a blow against their complacency, which harms us all. Sonia will work tirelessly for her community, no matter what their political leanings, and she will be backed by her local party, supporting her to become the dynamic fresh new voice that Greenwich West, and Greenwich borough.