Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in Lambeth have failed to bring about the de-selection of three Labour councillors, with party members in the Gypsy Hill ward voting decisively in favour of the trio defending their seats at next year’s borough election.
A close outcome had been anticipated in a branch chaired since November by veteran left winger Ted Knight, a former leader of Lambeth Council, and where membership has increased dramatically as part of the “Corbyn surge“, but Councillors Matthew Bennett, Jennifer Brathwa and Luke Murphy all won comfortably, by 28-16, 34-14 and 30-17 respectively.
The outcome is a disappointment for Momentum, the group formed to support Corbyn, which has been conspicuous in the south London borough and critical of local Labour politicians it has termed “Blairite” or as affiliated to the Progress wing of the party. Lambeth Momentum derided the selection of Murphy to contest Gypsy Hill at the by-election he won last year ahead of two Corbyn supporters, describing him as a “Progress favourite” and appearing to be more enthusiastic about the Green Party candidate.
A meeting to launch the Lambeth branch of Momentum in December 2015 was attended by Knight and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, another prominent figure in the Left’s rise to power in London local government in the 1980s. Knight was eventually barred from holding public office for refusing to set a legal budget as part of a revolt against the Conservative government’s rate-capping policy, which set limits on councils’ freedom to raise local property taxes. He had previously been expelled from Labour in the mid-1950s because of his connections with a far Left group.
Gypsy Hill is among the last of Lambeth’s wards to complete its candidate selection process for the 2018 elections. Bennett, the council’s cabinet member for housing, has come under concerted pressure from campaigners opposing council policies on housing estate redevelopment.
The Town Hall’s approach to local libraries and the Garden Bridge have been other contentious issues, but Lambeth leader Lib Peck and other senior councillors have also prevailed in their ward selection ballots. Bennett has expressed delight with the Gypsy Hill results and said on Twitter that for him and his two colleagues it was “great to have the strong backing of local members”.