I was leading from the front, says Tory leader who lost his seat

Oliver Cooper switched wards but the gamble backfired

Friday, 13th May — By Richard Osley


Oliver Cooper watches the Lib Dem votes stack up in Belsize

THE leader of the Camden Conservatives who lost his seat after an election gamble backfired said he had been “leading from the front” when he decided to switch wards.

Oliver Cooper’s defeat to the Liberal Democrats in the Belsize ward caused one of the biggest stirs around the counting hall on Friday morning.

He would almost certainly have held his place on the council if he had stayed put in the Hampstead Town ward that he has represented for seven years.

The Conservatives had been confident of sweeping out two Lib Dem councillors in Belsize, but the electorate thought otherwise.

“Leadership means subjecting yourself to the same risks you would ask your team to experience,” he said.
“It’s been a great honour to lead the opposition in Camden for the last four years, but there wouldn’t have been any honour if I’d just sat in safety.”

He added: “I led from the front, as leaders should – and sometimes, when you set yourself challenges, you don’t quite rise to them.

“I’m proud that Steve Adams and I ran on our record, while the Lib Dems ran away from theirs and talked only about national politics.”

Oliver Cooper puts on a brave face by returning to the Tory Saturday street stall in Belsize with Steve Adams and Alexandra Marsanu

Mr Cooper, who responded defiantly to his defeat by going back to Belsize village on Saturday to set up the regular Tory street stall, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Labour council in the Town Hall chamber.

While his supporters suggested he was left with all the work and attended meetings every night, internal rivals suggested that he insisted on taking centre stage on every issue.

Amid panto-style heckling among her ranks, Labour leader Georgia Gould asked her team to acknowl­edge his spirited service as the leader of the opposition.

“Conservatives were the only councillors to support the Belsize Village Streatery, oppose high-rises at the O2 Centre, or listen to residents’ opposition to the Haverstock Hill cycle lanes, and people in Belsize knew we’d stood up for them,” said Cllr Cooper.

“They [voters] just didn’t like the national picture, which is outside our control.”

He added: “Of course the seat result was disappointing, but to see an increase in the Conservative vote in Belsize – and only a 1 per cent fall in the vote share borough-wide, compared to several times that in other boroughs – shows people appreciated what we’d done and will continue to do.”

Mr Adams, who had been a Tory councillor in Belsize for four years, had to miss polling day after being struck down with coronavirus.

Maria loses too

ANOTHER Tory who left the Hampstead Town ward has failed in a bid to get elected again – this time in Hampshire.

Maria Higson

Maria Higson had slowly eased her way out of Camden after just one term as a councillor and could be found standing for election to Basingstoke and Deane Borough on Thursday.

She seemed a likely winner defending a Tory seat against only one opponent, but when the results came through it was Liberal Democrat candidate Kerry Morrow who claimed victory.

She isn’t regretting moving out of London, however.Ms Higson tweeted a thank you to supporters which said : “I feel so lucky to be here

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