Belsize: Lib Dems sweep the board as Tory leader's gamble fails

Oliver Cooper loses seat

Friday, 6th May — By Harry Taylor

Lib Dem winners Matthew Kirk Judy Dixey Tom Simon hatsApp Image 2022-05-06 at 8.26.00 AM (2)

Matthew Kirk, Judy Dixey and Tom Simon win Belsize for the Lib Dems



OLIVER COOPER (Local Conservatives) 1,124
STEVE ADAMS (Local Conservatives) 1,106
AARTI JOSHI (Local Conservatives) 953
ISSY WAITE (Labour) 705
PETER PTASHKO (Labour) 644

TURNOUT: 38.4 per cent

THE Liberal Democrats secured a stunning victory in Belsize, managing to win all three seats in a hotly contested election battleground with the Conservatives.

The party will become Camden’s main opposition party with four councillors. Tom Simon has retained his seat and will be joined on the Lib Dem benches by Judy Dixey and Matthew Kirk.

The 193 vote margin between Cllr Kirk and the leader of the Conservatives council Oliver Cooper was a higher margin than expected. Both opposition parties had been campaigning hard in the weeks leading up to the vote, wi1th resources piled in.

Cllr Cooper had been a councillor in Hampstead Town since 2015, but took a gamble to stand in the Belsize ward, hoping to win the seat and give up a space for another Tory to win in his place in the north tip of the borough.

However he, incumbent Steve Adams and new candidate Aarthi Joshi lost.

Discussions will take place in the Lib Dem ranks over the next few days over who will lead the Lib Dem group. Previous Lib Dem leader and Belsize councillor Luisa Porritt chose to stand down at this election.

Oliver Cooper watches disappointing results for the Tories

Speaking afterwards, Cllr Simon said: “Obviously I’m delighted we won all three in Belsize and that Nancy got back in, topping the poll in Fortune Green, so we will be the official opposition. It would have been nice to win some more. I feel particularly sad that Janet Grauberg didn’t get in in West Hampstead, who probably worked harder than anyone else in this election campaign and would have been a fantastic councillor. We increased our number of seats on the council so overall we’ve got to be pleased.”

He added: “We certainly thought it was going to be a lot closer in Belsize. We weren’t sure that we were going to win all three by any stretch and we knew it was a possibility. We had that margin of victory and it’s a surprise for us.”

“Certainly the unpopularity of the national government, of Boris Johnson, of partygate and the failure on cost of living crisis and climate emergency and all the other things have played a factor. I think people in Belsize know that people who vote Lib Dem get councillors who work hard and stand up for them on issues that are important to them. We have a track record in Belsize going back to 2006, so I think that is definitely a factor too.”

He acknowledged it will be a challenge with a small number of opposition councillors in recent memory.

Matthew Kirk senses victory

“It’s going to be a challenge sure, and it’s a shame that Camden won’t have a larger number of opposition councillors,” he said.

“I don’t think that’s healthy, we certainly tried to get more but we didn’t succeed this time. Over the last four years, we have only had three councillors, we have nonetheless done a good job of holding the Labour administration to account on key issues such as waste collection failures, the O2 centre redevelopment, more action on climate change, housing repairs and other issues as well.

“We will build on that, with our one extra councillor we will keep on doing that work and won’t give them any rest.”

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