Southwark woke up to a brave new world last Friday, with the departure of two of our three longstanding MPs – one by design and one by defeat at the ballot box.
We pay tribute to both Tessa Jowell, who stood down as Dulwich &?West Norwood MP after 23 years’ service, and to Simon Hughes, who was beaten into second place in Bermondsey &?Old Southwark by Labour’s Neil Coyle and as such, lost the seat he had held for 32 years.
For Mr. Hughes, the unforeseen end is of course much harsher, and many of his constituents will feel a real sense of loss. It is never nice to see longstanding community champions ousted, rather than departing on their own terms and Bermondsey will feel a different place without this utterly dedicated MP.
Yet we also welcome his successor, Mr. Coyle, who will relish the opportunity to try to make the same sort of impact on his constituency as Mr. Hughes did, as Helen Hayes in Dulwich will also seek to do. No doubt they will be warmly embraced by the electorate who chose them as their representatives in Parliament. We also congratulate Harriet Harman, who continues with a huge majority in Camberwell &?Peckham, with 33 years’ service already under her belt, and now becomes interim Labour leader.
The turnout – the highest for at least twenty years – would suggest that the result of the election was not the only thing that pundits got wrong. So much for people not bothering with politics, and that is something we should heartily applaud.
One word of caution – we now have a council run by a strong Labour majority, as well as three Labour MPs – a clean sweep. The two new Labour MPs have announced that they will continue as local councillors – which means that they will be part of the administration, and under the party whip. Are they able properly to scrutinise the council and hold it to account, if they are still part of it??We would argue not.