Lib Dems select former councillor Linda Chung for Hampstead Town by-election

Three way battle expected for July 7 vote

Friday, 27th May — By Richard Osley

linda

Linda Chung

THE Liberal Democrats are to field former councillor and community campaigner Linda Chung in the Hampstead Town by-election.

Her selection confirmed last night (Thursday) means the party will have one of its best known local members at the front of the contest – which looks set to be a rare three-way race.

She told the New Journal: “I haven’t really stopped being away. I’ve just always loved that community involvement and loved working together with residents, but as a councillor you have more of a mandate to do that than as a citizen.”

The by-election was called just 21 days after the boroughwide Camden Council elections. Adrian Cohen – the first ever Labour winner in the ward – decided he did not have the time to serve as a councillor.

Labour, who hold 47 of the 55 seats in the council chamber, must now try and convince voters in Hampstead Town that they merit a second chance with a new candidate.

The Tories already hold the other seat in the ward through Stephen Stark, but the Liberal Democrats too had enjoyed success here.

Ms Chung has always been a thorn in the Conservatives’ side: she polled more than 2,000 votes in 2010 on her last election win in the ward and only narrowly lost her seat in 2014 against the backdrop of the party’s national coalition with the Tories.

I know what I’m getting into,” she said. “I know how to help give residents a voice – and that’s what I really want to do. I want to see the return of residents’ neighbourhood forums where residents have the opportunity to question and challenge what the council is doing.”

Ms Chung said she did not want to win the by-election in order to simply sling insults across the chamber and favoured a more considered approach.

There’s no point in just having a loud voice and slagging everything off,” she said. “We need to work together to get the best opportunities for all residents across Camden. And we need more voices in the chamber. We can’t have the council getting complacent because there are so many Labour councillors and just deciding to do things because they say so and nothing else matters.”

The political make-up of Camden Council

She added that the Tories could not “wash their hands of their awful Prime Minister” by calling themselves “Local Conservatives”, as they did on the May 5 ballot paper. “They are still Tories,” she said. “And they have to be interested in national politics too because it is relevant to the council and how much money will be available.”

Ms Chung added that she felt her achievements as a councillor had been to help revive “faded” high streets and making sure there was “originality”, adding: “We need to make sure we have people conserving what we have and to be there questioning what developers are doing. We must have people there asking sensible questions.”

She believed the 02 Centre redevelopment in Finchley Road was still a key issue for the council – including for people living in Hampstead.

It is a complicated development but it should be seen as a great opportunity too – as long as residents properly get a voice on the infrastructure that is needed,” she said.

“Here is a chance to rejig the ghastly Finchley Road but it is a development that is going to last ten to 15 years with disruption and effects for so many different wards. I want to make sure that residents are heard. We have seen before that people can be worn down by successive applications as it goes on.”

She added: “The transport links will be important as I know many people use it for shopping, but you will hear Camden pushing this onto TfL and TfL pushing it onto Camden – and the developer will say ‘I’m waiting to hear from both’ – and all the while the clock is ticking on actually making sure we get improvements and what we need.

“We can’t leave this to the last moment. For the same reason, we need to see good construction management plans as we’ve seen how residents have suffered already with the works on HS2.”

Ms Chung said she wanted to see good local amenities and shopping included in the 02 Centre plans.

Of Mr Cohen’s resignation, she said: “I sympathise with him. He was pushed into it because he was told they didn’t stand a chance of winning. The fact Labour are so shocked… well what does that show about what they think of Hampstead. I think he realised that to do a good job you can only scrutinise properly if you look at the documents and view them with an understanding of what’s happening in the area – and that involves time. I think he is brave to stand down, but it does take that time and I’ve shown before I can do it.”

The by-election will be held on July 7.

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