Lewis Baston: Brenda Dacres makes history with Lewisham mayoral win

Lewis Baston: Brenda Dacres makes history with Lewisham mayoral win

In the early hours of International Women’s Day Labour’s Brenda Dacres was declared elected as the new Mayor of Lewisham. Dacres is the first black woman to become an executive mayor in London and the third directly elected Lewisham Mayor, following Sir Steve Bullock (2002-18) and Damien Egan (2018-2024).

The mayoral by-election was caused by Egan’s resignation on 10 January after his selection as the Labour candidate in the Kingswood parliamentary by-election in the suburbs of Bristol. He had already been selected as candidate for the Bristol North East constituency that comes into existence at the next general election and overlaps significantly with the existing Kingswood. It was therefore logical to bring forward his westward move.

Wielding executive power in Lewisham and pounding the pavements of Kingswood and neighbouring Hanham at the same time would have been impossible. And Egan’s confidence about gaining Kingswood, which had been a Conservative seat since 2010, was rewarded. He was the most senior London politician recently to make the move back to his ancestral region, joining fellow Labour by-election winners Alistair Strathern (from Waltham Forest Council to Mid Bedfordshire) and Gen Kitchen (formerly of Newham Council, now MP for Wellingborough).

Lewisham has been a solidly Labour borough in mayoral and council elections. Egan won 54 per cent of the vote in 2018 and 58 per cent in 2022, and his Labour colleagues in the council elections won 54 seats out of 54 in both of those years. There was therefore little suspense about the eventual result of the mayoral by-election, which is part of the reason for the low turnout of 20.7 per cent – down from 34 per cent in the May 2022 election.

Dacres was a continuity candidate in that she had been one of Egan’s deputy mayors and had served on Lewisham council since 2014. She was opposed by six hopefuls – perhaps not the right word for someone standing against Labour in Lewisham – three of them from the other main London parties plus the Christian People’s Alliance (CPA), George Galloway’s Worker’s Party of Britain (WPB) and Nick Long, a left-wing Independent.

Labour won easily, with 21,576 votes (51.5 per cent). That’s less than in 2022, but the result that will satisfy the party. Since the Elections Act 2022 mayoral elections have been under the First Past the Post electoral system, but by getting more than half the vote Dacres would have won on the first count under the previous system. It was a better result for Labour than last year’s mayoral by-election in Hackney.

The main competition came from the Green Party, which came second as it had in the 2022 mayoral and borough elections. Their candidate Michael Herron – not the author of the Slow Horses books – won 6,835 votes (16.4 per cent, a tiny increase on 2022). Veteran south east London Liberal Democrat activist Chris Maines ran for Mayor for the fifth time and came third with 4,896 votes (11.8 per cent, up a couple of points on 2022). The Conservatives, whose standard-bearer was Siama Qadar, dropped to fourth (3,784 votes, 9.1 per cent).

Bringing up the rear were the CPA’s Maureen Martin (1,233 votes, 3.0 per cent) and Long (917 votes, 2.2 per cent). In fifth, however, was John Hamilton, the candidate of George Galloway’s party, who won 2,378 votes (5.7 per cent). Like Maines, Hamilton is a familiar figure to the Lewisham electorate, having stood four times before as an Independent or as the candidate of the local left-wing People Before Profit party.

Galloway, fresh from his victory in Rochdale, came to speak for Hamilton amid disorderly scenes outside the Civic Suite in Catford. Hamilton’s slogan was: “If you vote Tory or Labour, you are voting for genocide.” But despite all the heat, his share of the vote was exactly what it had been last time he stood (as People Before Profit) in 2018, and below his best (8.3 per cent in 2014). Lewisham was a lot less impressed than Rochdale by Galloway’s eclectic populism.

Dacres’s victory means she will have to vacate her council seat in Deptford ward, which means there will be a by-election. The ripples of consequence from the government’s decision to give out more oil and gas licences have proven unpredictable, leading first to Chris Skidmore’s resignation as Kingswood MP, then to Egan leaving Lewisham to successfully contest the seat, and now to the voters of Deptford being summoned back to the polls for a third local by-election in the space of a few months, having already taken part in one in November.

Correction, 13 March. This article originally said Brenda Dacres had become the first black woman to become a directly elected, executive mayor in Britain. However, a reader pointed out that Joanne Anderson had previously held such a post in Liverpool. A correction has been made.

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Categories: Analysis

1 Comment

  1. Ivan J Markov (life Sustainable ©) says:

    Congratulations labour. They have worked hard to try to hold the borough together under COVID and the most extreme funding from the ultra mean conservatives. They have supported myself ‘life sustainable’ with all my rejuivination community gardening work around Lewisham.
    Good luck Mayor Brenda Dacres.

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