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New MP: ‘Brexit to blame for polls loss’

Islington councillor Claudia Webbe, who began new role in the House of Commons this week after winning Leicester East seat, reflects on election disaster for Labour

20 December, 2019 — By Sam Ferguson

Claudia Webbe during her time as Islington’s environment chief

A LABOUR councillor who is leaving the Town Hall after being elected as new MP in Leicester has blamed Brexit and the media for the party’s general election defeat last week.

Claudia Webbe began her new role in the House of Commons this week but her celebrations have been dampened by Labour’s overall defeat.

She said: “To watch and see the devastation of the general election and the fact that as a Labour Party we didn’t win left me devastated. I’m devastated for the communities that suffer austerity.

“The country clearly made a decision about Brexit and that is what this general election for them was about.

“I’m devastated by the way in which the media did not challenge the Conservative Party about what it was offering.”

She added it was “too early to tell” who she would be backing for the Labour leadership following Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to step down.

Ms Webbe said the fact more BAME candidates had been elected was at least a reason to celebrate at her first parliamentary Labour Party meeting on  Monday evening.

She won her seat in Leicester East – the town where she grew up – and has since confirmed she will be stepping down from the Town Hall “as soon as the council was ready to run a by-election”.

Ms Webbe, who has been the borough’s environment and transport chief, said her “gift to Islington” would be an attempt to create a “low traffic neighbourhood” in Clerkenwell.

The proposal, submitted to the Mayor of London, would include closing St John Street in the south of the borough to traffic between Clerkenwell Road and Charterhouse Street. A decision is expected from the Mayor’s office before the mayoral elections in May.

“I’ve been absolutely passionate about taking on the role because it goes to the heart of tackling this inequality,” said Ms Webbe. “The majority of my residents don’t even drive, but they face the worst effects pollution and carbon emissions and traffic incidents.”

Ms Webbe said her proudest moment in five years as Islington’s environment and transport chief had been her work on the second phase of the Bunhill Combined Heat and Power Scheme.

The project aims to heat 1,000 homes in the King’s Square estate using air pumped from a ventilation shaft in the Northern line. The scheme, however, is running over budget.

She said: “One of the other things I’m most proud of is the fact that we introduced a transformation in the way which our street environment service and rubbish is addressed.”

Mr Corbyn said this week that Labour’s policies had been popular but the party had been unable to overcome Brexit divisions. He said as leader he took full responsibility for the loss but also cited a hostile media.

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