Red Dawn - The Lewisham Elections in Review

You think you're tough for eating beans every day? There's half a million scarecrows in Denver who'd give anything for one mouthful of what you got. They've been under siege for about three months. They live on rats and sawdust bread and sometimes... on each other. At night, the pyres for the dead light up the sky. It's medieval.
- The Colonel, Red Dawn

The high turnout for this year's general elections has wiped nearly every party other than Labour off the map in Lewisham. With Grove Park subject to a recount Labour has 38 Councillors, the Liberal Democrats have 12 and Brockley Ward's Darren Johnson stands as the only representative of any other political party in the borough.

So Lewisham politics has become a lot less colourful and diverse. Debates will be less interesting and fewer perspectives on local issues will be represented. Even Labour supporters would concede that that's a loss.

However, whether the shifting balance matters greatly to the Council's decision-making processes is less clear. The Mayor's power and autonomy means that the Councillors can do little to hold him to account.

The Mayor's re-election, therefore, is the most important story and he was returned with a massive margin, giving him a mandate to push through his most ambitious plans, in Lewisham, Deptford and Catford. The size of the victory means that he can probably look forward to a fourth term too - let's hope he doesn't need one to get some of his Grand Projets off the ground and sort out the mess that has been created in terms of both primary and secondary school provision.

But returning to our Councillors, the results still matter, because what is beyond doubt is that we have lost some great public servants, like Dean Walton and Sue Luxton and missed the opportunity to bring committed citizens like Max Calo and Patrick McGinley in to the Council.

In our view, at ward-level, the party you stand for is of secondary importance to who you are. A good Councillor works hard to represent their constituents' views to the Mayor and Council officers, to communicate the work of the Council back to constituents, to chair Ward Assemblies efficiently and to act with fairness on the committees they sit on. In this work, strong ideological beliefs or party political allegiances can be a hinderance.

Above all, Councillors need to be smart and trustworthy. We have lost some Councillors like that as a result of this election. The Green Ladywell website - an invaluable community resource - has already fallen silent. The good news is that we have not lost them to the Community. We hope that everyone who stood at this election will continue to play an active role in local life.

Which brings us to our new Councillors. All change is also opportunity. We don't know a great deal about them yet - we hope they will maintain the open dialogue that their predecessors maintained with Brockley Central readers and we look forward to hearing about their ideas for the area and reporting on their work.

The red dawn may also improve relations between Brockley, Ladywell, Telegraph Hill and Crofton Park wards, which have not been co-operating effectively as they should. Political tribalism clearly played a part in this.

Finally, where many local people believed that Brockley and Ladywell slipped down the Mayor's list of priorities as a result of going Green. This election is an opportunity to put that theory to the test - to see whether our new Labour councillors will be able to exert more influence with the Mayor on our behalf on pressing issues like crime and anti-social behaviour, improving the high street and planning enforcement.

Above all, we hope that the new Councillors will work in a collaborative way with the many passionate and active community groups that do so much for local life in our area - from Brockley MAX to the Ladywell Village Improvement Group - and together seize the opportunity created by the arrival of the East London Line, which will serve our new political landscape.

Thank you to our departing Councillors. Welcome to our new Councillors.