Labour successfully defended one of their many seats on Hackney borough council on Thursday 18 October. The election in Victoria ward in south Hackney was caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Alex Kuye on grounds of ill health. Kuye had been elected for the first time in May 2018.
Victoria ward is in south Hackney, separated from Bow by the municipal splendour of Victoria Park. It is east of Mare Street and south of central Hackney, and its main thoroughfares (Well Street and Victoria Park Road) comprise a major route up towards the M11. Over half of Victoria’s households rent from social landlords and the ward has two large council-built estates at Frampton Park and Kingshold, and a scatter of smaller estates and blocks.
Like many council estate wards it has a slightly more White British population than many in inner London, although it is still highly diverse. There is a gentrified, even hipster, area in the ward around Lauriston Road. Victoria is a typical inner London mixture in economic terms as well, being both among the most deprived wards in the country but also having an above-average proportion of middle-aged professionals.
Many years ago Victoria used to be competitive between Labour and the Liberal Democrats: Paddy Ashdown’s party, as they were then, won all the seats in Victoria in Hackney Labour’s meltdown year of 1998. But since 2002 it has been Labour, and the scale of the party’s majorities has tended to climb over the years. It was positively mountainous in the last local elections in 2018 – over 50 per cent of the vote ahead of the nearest competition, which came from the Green Party.
Five candidates stood in the election – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Women’s Equality Party. The Conservative who stood, with little hope of success, was Christopher Sills whose Hackney electoral experience goes back to the very first elections for the current borough back 1964 when he stood in Dalston; he was first elected councillor for Leabridge ward at the Conservative high tide in 1968.
The result, a Labour hold with a fairly low turnout (25 per cent) was unsurprising but there was a swing of 10 per cent to the Liberal Democrats and their candidate Pippa Morgan, a former staffer for Vince Cable now working in public relations. Morgan polled 436 votes but was still 875 behind Labour’s winner Penny Wrout, who is a former BBC journalist and manager, now an independent film-maker and lecturer. Both Labour and the Lib Dems can take some satisfaction from the result.