CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

EU elections: Councillor faces nervous wait to see if she is off to Brussels

Lib Dem Luisa Porritt will stay as a councillor even if she is elected as an MEP

26 May, 2019 — By Richard Osley

MP Jo Swinson, who looks set to be the next Lib Dem leader, helps the party’s EU election campaign in Belsize Park

A LIBERAL Democrat councillor will find out today (Sunday) whether she is off to Brussels.

Luisa Porritt stands a chance of being among the MEPs elected for the London region following her party’s surging EU election campaign, which has left organisers believing they have taken votes of both Labour and the Tories.

The polls closed at 10pm on Thursday but counting will take place through Sunday. The final results for the London region will not be known until at least 10pm, although there have been some warnings that it could be a 2am finish due to the length of the ballot paper that voters were faced with in the polling booths.

On election day, MP Jo Swinson, the favourite to succeed Sir Vince Cable as the party’s national leader, came to join the Lib Dem GOTV [Get Out The Vote] effort in Belsize Park.

Lib Dems were knocking up people who had pledged to vote for the Lib Dems and those who indicated that they were remainers in the ongoing Brexit debate.

The party does not hold any of the eight seats for the London region in Brussels but look on course to win at least two today. An even greater share of the vote would lead to the third candidate on their list being elected: Cllr Porritt.

Ms Swinson said: “More and more people are recognising that what they want to happen is what we’ve been arguing for, for the last three years, when we’ve been saying there should be a public vote on the Brexit deal, and actually what we’ve been arguing in favour of for the last five decades, which is a strong, very close relationship with our European partners so that we can work together on the big challenges we face.”

Around 75 percent of people in Camden who took part in the 2016 EU referendum voted to stay in the union, and Ms Swinson said the Lib Dems had run an ashamedly “stop Brexit’ campaign.

While Labour and the Conservatives often bring big hitters to Camden during election periods, invites for the New Journal to cover campaign events were thin on the ground this time. It was the Lib Dems who spread their familiar faces across north London in what was a relatively short campaign.

Jo Swinson (right) helps Luisa Porritt’s campaign

Sir Vince visited Camden Town and made two campaign stops in Islington. Ms Swinson’s arrival in Camden was another push at not only securing votes for Cllr Porritt, but a bid to convince voters that support for the party should stretch beyond this election.

“There are lots of people who are voting Liberal Democrat who have never voted Liberal Democrat before. People who are fed up with Labour’s equivocation on Brexit, people who look at the Conservative Party and think they are making an absolute shambles of it,” she said.

“I say to people who are voting Lib Dem for the first time: We welcome your vote but please stay with us. And I’m hopeful we can build that wider Liberal movement the country so desperately needs, particularly when you see the rise of populism and nationalism with the likes of Nigel Farage. Britain needs a solid liberal alternative to that.”

The Greens, particularly in their strongest ward of Highgate, are also expected to be beneficiaries of a fall in traditional Labour support in Camden. Labour campaigners, however, insist they have been out doorknocking and fighting for votes, often warning residents that their support is needed stop Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party gaining any ground.

Cllr Porritt has established herself as one of the Lib Dems’ rising stars and tipped as a future leader of the council group. She joined the party after the referendum result and helped gained seats in Belsize ward at last year’s council elections. She will not stand down as a councillor if she is elected to the EU parliament today, despite rumours that a win would trigger a by-election in a ward split with the Conservatives.

Ms Swinson said: “I’m really hopeful that we can get her in, which is a stretched target if you like, that we probably wouldn’t have thought possible at the beginning of this campaign. It just shows how much the Lib Dem campaign has really resonated.”

– See the New Journal’s website for the results later

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