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Labour holds St George’s ward council seat in by-election

Greens lose chance for second seat by 417 votes

13 December, 2019 — By Sam Ferguson

Gulcin Ozdemir with Town Hall leader Cllr Richard Watts

LABOUR narrowly held off the Green Party in a closely fought St George’s by election, keeping the number of opposition councillors on the council to two.

In a Town Hall by-election count held the day after Thursday’s general election, 2,918 votes out of 6,417 were enough to secure 45.4 per cent of the ballots and a council seat for Islington-born Gulcin Ozdemir. The election was triggered when Labour councillor Kat Fletcher stepped down last month.

Cllr Ozdemir’s background is in social housing advocacy, and she was previously chair of the parents’ association of Christ the King Primary School in Finsbury Park.

She said her top priorities would be community safety and affordable housing

“I am honoured to have been elected and to be given the opportunity to represent my community and to make a positive impact on the lives of local people,” she added.

“I will represent the needs and concerns of all local people, but especially those people who don’t always have a platform where their voice is consistently heard.

“My top priorities will be proving community safety, ensuring we secure as many genuinely affordable homes for local people on the former Holloway Prison site and being there to help people when they need my support.”

Runner up Natasha Cox, pictured above, of the Green Party was pipped to the post by Cllr Ozdemir by a margin of 417 votes.

The party told the Tribune it had prioritised the council by-election campaigning over general election campaigning in Islington.

After the result was announced, Ms Cox said: “I’m really proud of our campaign. This is the highest ever Green vote in this ward.

“Obviously it’s disappointing to come so close but I’d like to thank every one of the 2,501 people who voted for me to be their Green councillor in St George’s ward.

“It’s frustrating to come this close and get so many votes but not have a seat on the council.

“I’m definitely going to run again for a council seat. We’re still disappointed that the council is so Labour-heavy, and we’re concerned about the lack of accountability.”

Highbury East Green councillor Caroline Russell confirmed this was the most votes the Green party had ever received in any ward in Islington.

She added: “The results show many Labour and Lib Dem general election voters voted Green for the council election.

“It’s because they saw exactly how hard working Natasha is and they saw the importance of having Green Party councillors to provide accountability on the council.

“At the next local elections it’s clear – only the Green Party can challenge the Labour Party and bring balance to the council.”

The result leaves Labour holding 46 seats at the Town Hall, with Ms Russell and one Independent councillor sitting in opposition.

Liberal Democrat candidate Helen Redesdale took 11.5 per cent of the ballots with 738 votes, while the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) candidate Guilene Marco earned 268 votes, enough for a 4.2 per cent share.

Speaking to the Tribune after the result, Ms Marco, pictured below, said she was “very proud” of the WEP’s campaign.

“This was the first time the party stood in St George’s ward, and we’re happy with the result,” she said.

“We ran our campaign on a very popular message around ending violence towards women and making sure no woman is turned away from a refuge in Islington.

“I think we managed to get our message across through the general election noise. The 2022 elections will be a very big year for the WEP in Islington.”

Turnout for the by-election was 67.3 per cent, of an electorate of 9,649.

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