New Lib Dem MEP Luisa Porritt’s first day in Brussels
Rumours circulate that some Labour councillors voted for Lib Dems at European elections
06 June, 2019 — By Richard Osley
Luisa Porritt in the EU Parliament chamber yesterday (Wednesday)
THE Camden councillor elected to the European Parliament went from the Chalcots estate to Brussels yesterday (Wednesday) for the first time – and pledged to be able to do both jobs.
Liberal Democrat Luisa Porritt was among new MEPs shown around the European Parliament buildings, including the main chamber.
The party jumped from having no London MEPs to seeing three elected for the region last month, a victory boosted in boroughs such as Camden where Lib Dems topped the polls in wards normally considered Labour or Conservative strongholds.
Cllr Porritt is staying on as a councillor for Belsize ward – she won her seat for the first time in May last year – and is giving short shrift to anybody who suggests her twin role is incompatible. She said: “The vast majority of residents I’ve spoken to have been supportive and are happy I’m staying on.”
The party thrived in Camden with a “Bollocks to Brexit” campaign slogan that chimed with voters in a borough where around 75 per cent of people who took part in the 2016 EU referendum said they wanted to remain in Europe.
Cllr Porritt, who went to Europe from a Chalcots estate working group meeting, said she would strive to do more to explain what was happening in Brussels – and why it was important – to people back home.
“Newly-elected, pro-European British MEPs have an important job to do over the next four months, and hopefully beyond that, to explain the value of EU institutions and our role within them back in the UK,” she said. “It’s critical that at this existential juncture for our membership of the EU those MEPs maintain strong ties with their communities.”
SEE ALSO EU ELECTIONS: CAMDEN RESULTS IN FULL
Most analysis of the voting suggested that the Lib Dems convinced past Labour voters to support them, with Alastair Campbell, the writer and broadcaster, the most high-profile among them. His resultant expulsion caused a storm among his supporters and suggestions that others had done the same in the privacy of the polling booth.
In Camden’s gossipy political circles, it has been suggested in the days since the election that as many as three Labour councillors may have given their votes to the Lib Dems due to their staunch support for staying in the EU.
Deputy Labour Party leader Tom Watson has called for an amnesty for people who voted for another party at this set of elections.
Played two, won two: Luisa Porritt was elected to Camden Council last May
Aware that many residents have not previously known who their MEPs were, Cllr Porritt said she would be updating residents on her activities with a new website and email newsletter.
“Myself and my Lib Dem colleagues will ensure that we are more visible and accountable to our constituents than many MEPs have been in the past,” she added.
The question hanging over the Lib Dems’ surging success at the polls and favourable polling, however, is whether the support will stick. One of the main tests could be next year’s mayoral and London Assembly elections.
The party has yet to decide on a candidate in Camden and Barnet. Applicants are due to be told by the end of the week whether they have been shortlisted. Conservatives are the only party so far to name their candidate, with Barnet councillor Roberto Weeden-Sanz getting a head-start. Labour’s Andrew Dismore is stepping down.