Claudia Webbe has suggested she would stay on as an Islington councillor if elected MP for Lewisham East, saying there are “no plans” for a byelection in her ward of Bunhill.
Cllr Webbe is on the shortlist to be the Labour candidate for Lewisham East in an election triggered by MP Heidi Alexander’s stepping down, with the Lewisham party members’ decision set for this Saturday.
Webbe has said that if selected she would leave her Islington cabinet role as member for environment and transport.
But speaking to the Islington Citizen today, Webbe suggested she would remain a Bunhill councillor if selected on Saturday and elected an MP for Lewisham East, to save her constituents another election.
“The people of Bunhill have just gone through an election,” she said. “I don’t think they want to go through another election any time soon. So we want to be kind to our residents.”
When pressed on this, Cllr Webbe said: “There are no plans at this stage to trigger a byelection in Bunhill ward.”
On her place in Islington’s cabinet, Cllr Webbe said she cannot hold a cabinet post while running to be an MP.
“The cabinet role is a full-time role, so it’s about being realistic,” she said.
Cabinet posts will be appointed at the council’s annual general meeting (AGM) on 24 May – days after the Lewisham East selection vote.
Webbe told the Citizen she has recommended that she not be a cabinet member if selected as Labour’s Lewisham East candidate on Saturday.
This suggests that if selected for Lewisham East, she will not be re-appointed to the cabinet, but if she is not selected in Lewisham on Saturday, she may well get a cabinet post at next week’s AGM.
If successful on Saturday, Webbe said she is confident she could be the Lewisham East candidate – and potential MP – at the same time as being an Islington councillor.
“There are lots of politicians [MPs] who are councillors,” she said.
Asked whether her Bunhill constituents, who re-elected her two weeks ago with 1,704 votes, would agree that she can still serve them effectively, Cllr Webbe said: “I think I can represent the people of Lewisham East. That is not a slur on the people of Bunhill.
“I’m passionate about Bunhill. They as residents are passionate about me as well.
“I don’t think the residents of Bunhill will think I have not provided a service to them. I’m not somebody who’s just arrived and I’m abandoning my community.”
She continued: “I’ve been Bunhill councillor for eight years. I took the seat off the Lib Dems who had it for 22 years. I faced down the BNP and UKIP in order to win.”
Cllr Webbe provided a long list of her “pioneering achievements” for Bunhill, including setting up Angelic Energy, rebuilding Moreland Primary School, provided 96 new council homes, and “revitalising” Central Street.
She also pointed to Soapboax, an “innovative and exciting” new youth service which teaches young people digital skills, and to having saved Finsbury Library on St John Street from closure, by “cleverly” combining it with other services like the area housing office.
“These are significant achievements,” she said.
Cllr Webbe added: “I became a councillor under Tory austerity and I’ve achieved all these things for Bunhill.
“All of that doesn’t just come about [on its own] when you’re living with austerity.”