IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

‘I’ve joined the Tories’, says the former mayor who quit Labour

Islington has its first Conservative councillor since the 1990s as row goes on

13 November, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Cllr Rakhia Ismail is welcomed to the Conservatives by Shaun Bailey

ISLINGTON has its first Conservative councillor since the 1990s after a former borough mayor joined the party.

Councillor Rakhia Ismail this week posed for photos with Shaun Bailey, the Tory mayoral candidate taking on Sadiq Khan at the London elections.

It follows a turbulent month in which she accused Mr Khan of not appearing interested in knife deaths after a series of deaths across the city.

She also fell out with the local Labour leadership at the Town Hall which she accused of “oppression” and “discriminatory behaviour”.

Her allegations have been rejected by party organisers.

And this week Emily Thornberry, the Islington South MP, led a chorus of local Labour Party politicians criticising her for signing up with Boris Johnson’s party.

She said: “I am very disappointed and slightly bewildered that Rakhia has chosen to do this.”

Emily Thornberry, the Islington South MP

Cllr Ismail, believed to be the first Somali-born woman to become a municipal mayor, stepped down as the borough’s first citizen in September after discussions over who would have the role amid a year disrupted by Covid cancellations.

It is understood that she is the first Tory councillor in Islington since 1994 when Cllr Clive Blackwood represented what was then known as Quadrant ward.

The “crossing the floor” will not change how Islington Council ticks because of Labour’s overwhelming majority in the council chamber.

In a campaign video released on Mr Bailey’s social media platforms, Cllr Ismail again criticised Mr Khan for his record on knife crime.

She said: “It’s going to be tough for me to actually cross the floor, but if that [is what it] takes to save a child in London then I will and that’s why I have joined the campaign of Shaun Bailey.”

Cllr Gary Poole

Cllr Ismail later told the Tribune: “It’s sad and a shame how far the Labour Party can push their loyal councillors. This will help to make changes for the better, but the scars will be with me forever.”

At the last local council elections in 2018, the Labour Party won all but one seat as Green Party councillor Cllr Caroline Russell retained her place in Highbury East.

Last year St Mary’s ward councillor Gary Poole resigned from Labour over the handling of antisemitism complaints and now sits as an independent.

In September Bunhill ward councillor Claudia Webbe, also the MP for Leicester East, was suspended from the party after she was charged with harassment. She entered a not guilty plea this week.

Labour councillor Cllr Paul Convery said: “Rakhia cannot rightly continue as a Tory councillor. She should resign and seek election as a Conservative. I’ve known quite a few councillors over the years who have fallen out with their party group. None has ever switched like this.”

A spokeswoman for Islington Labour Party said: “As Cllr Ismail has previously said herself, the Tory government has failed Islington on the issues that matter most, including tackling the route causes of knife crime and delivering desperately needed, genuinely affordable and council homes for local people.”

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