Update, 28 July 2017: All five Lewisham councillors profiled in the article below have been shortlisted to take part in the candidate selection contest. Ballot papers will be sent out early in September, voting will end on the 19th of that month and the result will be announced on the 22nd. Three hustings will be held, one in each of Lewisham’s three parliamentary constituencies, details to be announced.
Five potential contenders to become the next Labour mayor of Lewisham will be interviewed by a shortlisting panel this week, with those chosen to fight it out to become their party’s candidate for next May’s election expected to be named on Friday.
Lewisham councillors Paul Bell, Brenda Dacres, Damien Egan, Alan Hall and Paul Maslin have put themselves forward. No limit has been set on the length of the shortlist, meaning that all five councillors could take part in the ensuing selection contest, which is due to be concluded before Labour’s annual conference in Brighton at the end of September.
The winner will be the hot favourite to follow their fellow Labourite Sir Steve Bullock as Lewisham’s executive mayor after his retirement at the end of his current four year term. He has held the post since it was first contested in the strongly Labour-voting borough in 2002.
The race to become Bullock’s successor is taking place in the context of a substantial recent rise in party membership in Lewisham (as elsewhere in London), significant local activity by the Momentum organisation formed to support the national leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and bad publicity surrounding Lewisham’s support for a major redevelopment of South Bermondsey around Millwall Football Club.
Bell, a strong Corbyn supporter and a national officer of the public sector union UNISON, has been endorsed by his own union, by UNITE and by Lewisham Momentum, as stated on his campaign website. He is not a member of Bullock’s cabinet and opposed its decision last September to use its compulsory purchase powers (CPO) to push forward the South Bermondsey scheme, known as New Bermondsey. The CPO was later withdrawn and Lewisham has set up an inquiry into its own handling of matters relating to issue.
Dacres, who describes herself as a “single mum and feminist” and a “socialist and trade unionist”, is another non-cabinet member and represents the New Cross ward in which Millwall FC stands. She too has criticised the CPO and welcomed the inquiry. Dacres, a lawyer, is a member of the New Cross Gate Trust.
Egan is Bullock’s cabinet member for housing and has released a video of himself talking about growing up in a council house from the age of 14 after his family became homeless. In January he announced that he believed “we should completely revisit” the existing New Bermondsey planning application, dating from 2011, which proposes the building of 2,400 new homes (of which it is now hoped close to 35% would meet London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s “genuinely affordable” requirement).
As chair of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, Hall has been prominent in scrutinising and questioning the New Bermondsey project. His Twitter page says he is “supported by train drivers’ union ASLEF and UNITE the union” and his website emphasises that he was born, raised and schooled in the borough.
Gallery-owner Maslin is, like Dacres, a New Cross ward councillor and is the council’s cabinet member for children and young people. On his website he describes his life as beginning in a prefab in Deptford and defines a principle behind his mayoral bid as using power “to improve the lives of ordinary people, whose hopes, dreams and aspirations are, more often than not, simple, modest and ordinary”. Maslin stresses the financial pressure Lewisham will be under and makes a case for modernising how the council works in order to cope with it better.
On London will bring you outcome of the shortlisting as soon as possible.