Corbyn leads tributes as university handyman Mick Gilgunn elected to Islington Council after landslide by-election win

‘Champion for the working class’: Newly elected councillor Mick Gilgunn. Photograph: Islington Council

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn led the tributes after university handyman Mick Gilgunn was elected to Islington Council following a landslide by-election win.

Gilgunn, 59, swept to victory in Tollington with a staggering 56 per cent of the vote on 1 July.

His win came after a gruelling month-long campaign that saw him juggle daily canvassing with a full-time job in the maintenance department of a top London university.

He replaces former council leader Richard Watts, who stepped down in May to take a £130k job as Sadiq Khan’s Deputy Chief of Staff.

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn led the congratulations the following morning – describing his pal of 25 years as a “champion for the working class”.

He wrote on Twitter: “Great win for Labour in yesterday’s by-election.

“I’ve known carpenter Mick Gilgunn for a long time and he’s been a champion for the working class for even longer. He’ll be a great councillor for Tollington ward in Islington.”

Pimlico-raised Gilgunn was selected as Labour’s candidate after a three-year stint as chair of Islington TUC.

His win comes 15 years after he lost his first bid to become a councillor – when the Liberal Democrats picked up all three Highbury East seats in the 2006 local elections.

He told the Islington Citizen how his council estate upbringing and experiences as a private renter inspired him to put housing “at the heart of everything I do”.

And he revealed that he celebrated his “surreal” win with a quick pint at his local – before heading home for a well-earned kip.

He said: “I felt completely overwhelmed when the count came in – overwhelmed and exhausted.

“For ages now I’ve finished work and gone canvassing immediately after – after using up my annual leave I had to work around my shift pattern.

“I had a quick drink with some friends after the result, but it only really sank in the next day when I had my induction.

“When I saw my name and photo on pass, that’s when it felt real. I felt this huge sense of responsibility and achievement.

“I thought of everyone who helped me knock on doors, everyone who supported me, everyone I’ve campaigned for in the past.

“I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. So many councillors before me have worked to make Islington a better place to live – some who I’ve known personally, and some who aren’t with us anymore.

“Obviously Richard leaves big shoes to fill – even as a ward councillor he was very effective.

“I wish him all the best in his new role, and look forward to working with Flora Williamson and Anjna Khuruna to deliver for Tollington.

“I grew up on a council estate, and I’ve experienced Islington’s private rented sector first-hand. It’s a massive part of why housing is so close to my heart.

“I thought I’d have to leave Islington nine years ago when my old landlady wanted to put the rent up quite drastically.

“I couldn’t afford it, it’s as simple as that – and if it wasn’t for a housing cooperative I’m part of, I would have had to leave.

“Islington has been my home for 21 years now and I’ve put down roots. Leaving would have been awful, and thankfully it didn’t come to that.

“But many won’t be that lucky, and they’re the people I want to fight for – nobody should be priced out of their home.”