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Islington environment chief on course for Westminster

Claudia Webbe ‘very proud’ to be selected for Labour’s ‘safe’ Leicester seat

15 November, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Cllr Claudia Webbe: ‘I am just very proud to have the opportunity to represent Leicester East, the area where I grew up and where my family still lives’

ONE of the most senior councillors at the Town Hall looks set to be an MP by Christmas after the Labour Party picked her to stand in a “safe” seat at next month’s general election.

Claudia Webbe, how­ever, said she will keep her position as Islington’s environment chief while running for parliament in the Leicester East constituency.

A vacancy arose after Keith Vaz announced he was stepping down and instead of holding a selection contest – with the election now less than a month away – Cllr Webbe was chosen centrally as the candidate.

The announcement on Tuesday came two days too late for a by-election to be called in her Bunhill ward on the same day as the general election, the cheapest way of running two lots of polling.

If Cllr Webbe manages to win the seat then it is likely a by-election for her place on the council will be held after December 12 at a cost of around £40,000 to the taxpayer.

Cllr Webbe, who has held the Bunhill seat in the south of the borough since 2010, told the Tribune: “It is too early for me to make a comment about my position in Islington. I am just very proud to have the opportunity to represent Leicester East, the area where I grew up and where my family still lives.”

She added: “My parents are not alive to witness this but my aunts and uncles are and they say they are proud of me.”

Mr Vaz has held the Leicester East seat for 32 years after taking the seat from the Tories. He had a majority of more than 20,000 at the last election.

Leicester voted 54 per cent to 46 to leave the EU in the referendum and Nigel Farage’s Brexit party will stand a candidate in the seat.

“Whatever the Brexit party wants to throw at me we will keep them out of Leicester,” Cllr Webbe said.

“And I will continue to take the fight to the Tories who are hellbent on smashing up workers’ rights and do not care about the communities that will bear the brunt of Brexit.”

As the council’s environment chief since 2014, Cllr Webbe faced vocal and active local lobby groups.

Asked about her experience in the Islington hot-seat, she said: “I am a community campaigner and I come from community activism.

“I have taken on several roles that have had to deal with and represent vocal communities, so I did not find the challenge that difficult as cabinet member for the environment and transport.”

Green Party councillor Caroline Russell said: “I wish her well and wish her luck with her campaign.

“And obviously, it appears it is a safe seat so it looks like at some point they are going to be looking for new executive member for environment and regen and I hope they chose someone who will engage with residents and take the climate emergency seriously.”

Islington Council leader Cllr Richard Watts said: “I am not commenting on the timings of a local by-election after the general election because we don’t take any seats for granted in the Labour Party. Claudia has been a fantastic councillor in Islington and a transformational executive member for environment and transport.”

There must be a minimum of 25 working days between when an election is called and when the ballot is held.

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