Britain's longest serving mayor ousted in favour of Momentum-backed candidate in flagship London borough

Sir Robin Wales removed by party members as Labour's candidate for Newham mayor

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Friday 16 March 2018 21:31 GMT
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Sir Robin Wales has led Newham Council since 1995
Sir Robin Wales has led Newham Council since 1995 (Alamy Stock Photo)

The long-standing mayor of a major London borough has been ousted by a Momentum-backed candidate, paving the way for the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting campaign group to take control of its second council.

Sir Robin Wales, who has led Newham Council for 23 years, will be replaced by Rokhsana Fiaz as Labour’s candidate for the borough’s leader in elections on 3 May.

Ms Fiaz campaigned on a platform of change and tried to attract support from all Labour’s internal factions, but her chances were boosted by securing the backing of the influential Momentum group.

She will take over from Sir Robin, who is Britain’s longest serving mayor, having led Newham Council since 1995 and become the borough’s mayor in 2002.

Ms Fiaz has promised to build 1,000 new council homes, oppose the academisation of schools and hold a referendum on whether the role of the borough’s directly elected mayor should continue to exist.

After clinching victory by 861 votes to 503, she said said: “I want to thank Labour Party members in Newham for putting their trust and hope in me as their candidate for Mayor of Newham.

“I can’t wait to start working with members and residents to build a Newham that offers homes for our residents and a future for all our young people.

She added: “Let’s unite and work together for Labour’s success at the local elections in May. It’s time to be truly radical again and show what Labour can achieve for the many here in Newham.

“I'd like to thank Robin for his commitment and dedication to Newham as both leader of the Council and directly elected Mayor. I look forward to working with him over the coming months to build on his legacy.”

Her victory means Momentum-backed officials are all but certain to take control of two of Labour’s flagship London councils after May’s elections.

A candidate backed by the group is widely expected to replace Claire Kober, the leader of Haringey Council, when she steps down in May.

Sir Robin was removed by party members after a reselection ballot was introduced in Newham for the first time, giving members the opportunity to choose their mayoral candidate. All 20 Labour Party branches in Newham voted in favour of an open contest.

He said: “I would like to congratulate Rokhsana for her successful campaign. Being a Labour mayor has been a great privilege and I want to thank all of those who have been with me throughout this journey, and all of those that helped on my campaign.

“I am so proud of everything that my administration has achieved."

Referring to what was at times an acrimonious campaign between him and Ms Fiaz, Sir Robin admitted the local party “has fallen into internal sniping and disputes often based on untruths”.

He said: “Moving forward we must now focus on uniting the party and delivering for the people of Newham.

“Rokhsana has made some ambitious promises that clearly Labour members supported, and I look forward to seeing Rokhsana face the bigger test of putting these ambitious targets to the residents of Newham.”

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