Published: 13 May 2010
by RICHARD OSLEY
AS the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats converged into a power-sharing pact at Westminster, a micro version of the deal ended at Camden Council.
The two parties have spent the past four years running the Town Hall, but both lost crucial ground at Thursday’s council elections as Labour built a majority.
The Conservatives and Lib Dems have 10 seats each and, even if they worked together now in Camden, they would not have enough power to outvote Labour’s ranks in the debating chamber.
The fallout of the change of power in Camden saw Councillor Andrew Marshall step down as Tory group leader on Monday night.
“In a completely new political situation, I decided this was the right time for me to stand down and allow a fresh leader to build on what was actually a strong Conservative vote in many parts of the borough,” said Cllr Marshall. He was replaced by his former deputy, Councillor Martin Davies.
Cllr Davies said: “I see my role as leading the robust challenge of the new Labour administration, whilst building the broad conservative consensus with the people of Camden as the foundations for our future success.”
The Tories were stung by the loss of seats in Gospel Oak and Bloomsbury and, although they made gains in Belsize, the group failed to expand in other target areas.
Councillor Keith Moffitt will stay as leader of Camden’s Lib Dems but now commands a whittled-down group without trusted lieutenant Janet Grauberg.
“I can’t deny the results were disappointing,” said Cllr Moffitt. “It was a setback but it’s all part of our party maturing. There was always a chance that there might be a squeeze if the general election and the local elections fell on the same day. What we have got is councillors in seven different wards so we have maintained appeal across the borough.”
The concern that a big election push might marginalise the Lib Dems, as has happened at other general elections, looked to have been negated by the TV debates and leader Nick Clegg’s apparent popularity.
In Camden, some roads were awash with yellow posters and stakeboards, but the enthusiasm that candidates clearly felt building on the streets did not translate into gains, and hopes of winning for the first time in areas such as King’s Cross and Highgate tapered away.
“Cleggmania appeared to have no effect.
Cllr Moffitt said: “I don’t think the local elections were a test of how people thought we did in Camden.
“I think people were generally very happy with what we had achieved. But national issues took over and people were very worried about what a Conservative government may bring, and in the uncertainty of the current economic climate didn’t feel they were able to do anything different.”