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New Tory leader says he will fight against ‘one-party state’

Oliver Cooper rejects 'Brexit boys' tag as he vows to challenge Labour regime

15 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Councillor Oliver Cooper

THE new leader of the Camden Conservatives says he will fight to stop the borough from becoming a “mono-cultural one-party state.”

Councillor Oliver Cooper’s name will be stamped into the marble on the wall of the Town Hall corridors after he was confirmed as the next official leader of the opposition on Monday evening.

The New Journal revealed last week how he was vying to take over in the wake of the party’s losses at the local elections earlier this month.

Outgoing leader Gio Spinella, seen by his supporters as a scapegoat for defeats in Swiss Cottage and Belsize, had been warned that he did not have the numbers to hold onto the top job ahead of the group’s annual general meeting. With the party looking to avoid a public scrap, Cllr Spinella agreed to become deputy to Cllr Cooper in the new set-up.

The party is facing a record Labour contingent on the other side of the council chamber and is down to its lowest number of councillors since 1994. Although the election was not a wipeout win for Labour, opponents are still warning of the ruling group’s dominance.

“Camden’s dynamism, diversity, and pluralism are unrivalled anywhere in the country, but that’s sadly not been the case politically,” said Cllr Cooper today (Tuesday). “Camden Conservatives’ main mission is to stand up for residents and give a voice to anyone that doesn’t want Camden to become a mono-cultural, one-party state. Half of voters in Camden didn’t vote for Labour.

“With the Conservatives having twice as many councillors as the other opposition parties, those voters need the Conservatives to stand up for them to hold Labour to account. Indeed, Labour voters need us to hold the administration to its manifesto promises, too. So many of the promises that Labour made in 2014 were broken – from their infamous promise to retain weekly bin collections to their failure to build the homes Camden needs.”

The 31-year-old is thought to be the Conservatives’ youngest ever leader, although he has been seen as candidate for the crown since he was first elected in the 2015 by-election in Hampstead Town. Disputes about how best to confront the Labour leadership and policy tactics have bubbled under the surface.

Rivals have cast Cllr Cooper’s emergence as a win for the ‘Brexit boys’, a reference to his support for leaving the European Union, a view shared by new councillor Henry Newman, and the fact the Conservative group is now formed of six men and only one woman.

He suggested views on Brexit did not define the group, adding that he had been “proposed and seconded for Leader by my ward-mates Maria Higson and Stephen Stark, and all three of us oppose hard Brexit and back the UK staying in the Single Market: unlike the Labour Party.”

He said: “I’m proud that Camden has one the most liberal and greenest Conservative groups in the country, and I’ll ensure it stays that way. Conservatives will keep pushing for more electric car charging points – as we’ve secured at Hampstead Heath’s car parks – for tougher action on pollution, and for more parks and green spaces.

“In recent years, we’ve been unafraid to disagree with the national Conservative Party, from vociferously opposing HS2 to calling for a more liberal stance on refugees to successfully lobbying for the government to drop ‘Pay To Stay’. But with fewer councillors to challenge Labour, it’s vital for everyone to focus on the day job of improving the services that Camden delivers to residents. Camden can’t afford a part-time administration.”


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