Labour vote slumps in ward where councillors reneged on Silvertown Tunnel pledge

Stephen Brain at Greenwich Ikea launch
Peninsula councillors Denise Scott-McDonald and Stephen Brain (right) with council leader Danny Thorpe and then-mayor Peter Brooks at the start of work on east Greenwich’s Ikea in 2017

Voters have deserted the Labour party in the Greenwich Council ward where two councillors went back on their word and backed the controversial Silvertown Tunnel, internal figures from this weekend’s European election have suggested.

Denise Scott McDonald, the council’s cabinet member for transport and air quality, and Stephen Brain aligned themselves with opposition to the tunnel when standing for re-election in Peninsula ward, where the new road will emerge, last year. The Labour-run council has backed the tunnel ever since it was first proposed by Conservative mayor Boris Johnson in 2012.

Along with Labour colleague Chris Lloyd, all three were elected to represent the ward at the council election last May. But vote counts released to party agents this weekend indicate that Labour came third in the ward behind the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, scoring just 17% of the vote.

Despite Lloyd telling residents at a hustings that all three councillors had opposed the tunnel, which is due to run from Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks, 853 revealed earlier this year that Scott-McDonald and Brain voted against reversing the council’s policy at a behind-closed-doors meeting of Labour councillors. Many residents are worried about the tunnel, fearing pollution and traffic congestion. Five years of construction work is due to begin at the end of the year, although Greens and Lib Dems backed a last-ditch protest against the scheme outside City Hall earlier this month.

Labour scraped its way to first place in Greenwich borough in last week’s election with 17,602 votes – 25.7% of the vote – with the anti-Brexit Lib Dems just behind on 16,769 (24.5%). Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party came third, with 14,374 votes (20%) – roughly equivalent to the figure for Farage’s old party, Ukip, in 2014’s poll. The Greens, who also emphasised the opposition to the UK’s exit from the EU, came fourth (13.2%) while the Conservatives limped in sixth (5.7%) behind Change UK (5.8%). Ukip came seventh on 2.8%.

The breakdown reveals differences across Greenwich borough (click to expand)

But a ward-by-ward breakdown shared by Greenwich Conservatives leader Matt Hartley shows startling differences across Greenwich borough. It suggests the Lib Dems won the poll in Greenwich & Woolwich constituency, while the Brexit Party came top in Eltham. The figures, which were sent to election agents by the council, need to be treated with some caution as each ward’s count includes some postal votes from other parts of the borough.

Peninsula ward’s Labour vote comes in among the borough’s lowest, the figures suggest – at 17%, compared with 35% for the Lib Dems and 21% for the Greens. It is only lower in heavily marginal Blackheath Westcombe, where opposition to the tunnel is also strong, (16%) and Eltham South (15%), where the Brexit Party got 36% of votes.

Labour’s best performing seat was Woolwich Common, where the figures suggest it had 39% of the vote – a reward for the party’s heavy campaigning in the area. It polled 37% in Glyndon ward, which also saw local campaigning.

The Tories did best in Eltham North, South and Coldharbour & New Eltham, but still only won 8% of the vote. They were went packing in Greenwich West and Peninsula with just 3%, the figures suggest, despite Tory campaigning in the latter. Greenwich West also saw the Lib Dems grab 38% of the vote in its target seat in the borough.

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One comment

  1. […] Greenwich Council has been steadfast in backing the project, with an attempt to reverse Greenwich Labour’s support failing earlier this year when two councillors in Peninsula ward reneged on a pledge in hustings to oppose the scheme. While Britain’s planned exit from the EU was the major theme of the poll, Labour’s vote tumbled to just 15% in the ward in this month’s European elections. […]

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