Labour candidate Praful Nargund launches Islington North campaign

Labour candidate Praful Nargund launches Islington North campaign

Islington councillor Praful Nargund last night launched his campaign to hold Islington North for Labour, promising to be dedicated to addressing the concerns of local people if he wins on 4 July and stressing his view that only a Labour MP representing the constituency in the House of Commons would have influence on a likely Labour government.

Speaking to a group of around 50 activists at the Islington Chinese Association building in N19, Nargund, 33, said those gathered were “united by a conviction that Labour must win in Islington North” and that constituents “must be part of the change that Britain needs, we must be at the heart of a Labour government.”

Bradford-born Nargund, who moved to Islington in 2015 and was first elected to Islington Council in 2022, told his audience that his parents, who were at the event, had moved to Britain from India in the early 1980s to work as National Health Service junior doctors, initially under Conservative national governments.

He described them seeing a transforming of the service after Labour won in 1997: “Record investment, better outcomes for patients, better pay, better working conditions. We saw how much better a fairer Britain can be.” Nargund said this experience prompted his mother to join the Labour Party, resulting in him spending “evenings and weekends on the doorstep with her”.

Challenging the “caricature” of Islington as “a place of privilege” he said poverty characterised the experience of a community to which Conservative governments have been indifferent. He said anything other than a Labour win in the seat would leave that community consigned to “another five years on the outside”.

Nargund was accompanied at the event by Islington South MP Emily Thornberry, who lives in the Barnsbury ward Nargund represents at the Town Hall. Introducing the Labour candidate as “a kind and thoughtful man”, she told activists that ultimately “the only thing that matters about this election is whether we’re going to end up with a Labour government or a Conservative government”.

She listed a string of policies enacted by the last Labour government. “We have a straight choice here,” she said. “We need to make sure we return a Labour MP for this constituency.”

Islington North has long been a safe Labour seat, represented since 1983 by Jeremy Corbyn, who led Labour to successive general election defeats in 2017 and 2019. Corbyn was last year banned by Labour from defending the seat under its name following his suspension as a Labour MP in 2020 after he had claimed, in response to the publication of a report on the issue, that the problem of antisemitism in Labour during his leadership had been “dramatically overstated”.

Corbyn, who was not mentioned by either Nargund or Thornberry, is seeking to win Islington North as an Independent and launched his campaign on Wednesday. He has now been expelled by Labour. Although historically it has been difficult for Independents to succeed in parliamentary seats, elections analysts believe victory for him is possible, making Islington North a marginal and perhaps the only seat in the UK Labour might lose. Candidates for the Green, Liberal Democrat and Reform UK parties have also been selected for the seat. A Conservative is expected to join them.

Nargund emphasised in his speech the importance of local activists to his campaign, telling those present “we can’t do this without you” and that with victory “we can really change lives” by “putting Islington North at the heart of a Labour government”.

Speaking to On London after his speech, Nargund said he became involved in community campaigning in 2017, stirred to action by the Grenfell Tower disaster which took place that year. Among his current causes is backing long-running local opposition to Ocado opening a distribution centre next to Yerbury primary school, something the council is also against.

A Labour Party member since around 2009, Nargund has been the head of a company founded by his mother, which provided IVF treatments at lower cost and with fewer drugs than other forms available. They now run Create Impact Ventures, which invests in companies Nargund says are “going to have a social impact”. He will “step back from all the businesses” if he becomes an MP.

Nargund says that if elected he would initiate “a new approach to bringing people together locally to solve problems”, focussing on skills and “bringing together our businesses, our colleges and our unions to come up with a local skills plan, so we can make sure young people get access to the jobs of the future”.

Addressing predictions that the Islington North campaign will be ill-tempered, with assorted Corbyn supporters from all over the country coming to the area, he insists “I’m absolutely ready for whatever this contest entails”.

Asked if he was worried that Corbyn might defeat him, he replied, “I am concentrating on winning this campaign for the Labour Party and I fully believe we’re going to do it. I’ve been out and we’ve been getting a fantastic reception from members of the community – very civil and very good-natured. Most people are talking about the change a Labour government can bring in this area”.

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