Brain drain fear at London town halls as almost 80 local councillors to stand at general election

Georgia Gould, Nesil Caliskan and Jas Athwal are three London council leaders standing for Labour (ES Composite)
Georgia Gould, Nesil Caliskan and Jas Athwal are three London council leaders standing for Labour (ES Composite)

A record number of almost 80 London councillors are standing for election to Parliament, raising concerns about a possible “brain drain” from the boroughs.

Those likely to be elected on July 4 include three Labour council leaders and a host of deputy leaders and cabinet members from the capital’s 33 local authorities.

But the “payback” could be a greater understanding within Parliament of the challenges facing London. Many are standing in the capital’s 75 parliamentary constituencies.

In addition to at least 78 serving councillors known to be standing, a further 31 former councillors are also seeking to enter Parliament, plus former London Assembly members Sian Berry, the Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion, and Peter Fortune, the Tory candidate in Bromley and Biggin Hill.

The three borough chiefs who appear set to become Labour MPs are:

* Georgia Gould, currently leader of Camden council and the London Councils cross-party organisation, who is standing in Queen’s Park and Maida Vale.

* Nesil Caliskan, the Enfield leader and leader of the Labour group on the Local Government Association, who is standing in Barking.

* Jas Athwal, the leader of Redbridge council, who is standing in Ilford South.

Ms Gould’s late father Philip was a strategist for Tony Blair while her mother, Baroness Rebuck, is a Labour peer.

Ms Caliskan, who is also on Labour’s NEC (national executive committee) governing body, was piloted into Barking earlier this month after Darren Rodwell, the leader of Barking and Dagenham council, quit after allegations emerged of past behaviour.

Mr Athwal, who found himself barred from standing as a Labour candidate in 2019, is aiming to replace deselected Labour MP Sam Tarry.

The analysis, by the London Communications Agency, suggests about 30 serving or former Labour councillors could become MPs, depending on the party’s overall performance. This will lead to a large number of council by-elections.

Professor Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, said: “London’s export of political talent to seats across the country tells us much about the benefits of representing a ward close to the corridors of power. London boroughs are a better electoral springboard than councils elsewhere in the country.”

Robert Gordon Clark, senior advisor at London Communications Agency, said: “This is my ninth general election since getting involved in London politics, and I cannot recall a bigger coterie of councillors and ex-councillors seeking a seat in the Commons.

“Whether this leads to more ‘friends at court’ when it comes to a new Government’s decisions about London remains to be seen.”

A number of deputy council leaders could become MPs, including Ealing’s Deirdre Costigan, who is standing in Ealing Southall, Hammersmith & Fulham’s Ben Coleman in Chelsea and Fulham and Newham’s James Asser in West Ham and Beckton.

Other councillors include Harrow Tory Ameet Jogia, who is standing in Hendon, Nathalie Bienfait, a Green in Tower Hamlets who is standing in Poplar and Limehouse, and Camden’s Danny Beales, who narrowly failed to win Uxbridge and South Ruislip in last July’s by-election for Labour but who is re-contesting Boris Johnson’s former seat.

Islington Labour councillor Praful Nargund has the challenge of unseating Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North, while Rachel Blake, a Labour councillor in Tower Hamlets, is trying to win the Cities of London and Westminster, which has been vacated by prominent Tory MP Nickie Aiken.

Bobby Dean, a Lib-Dem spin doctor in the last two London mayoral elections and councillor in Sutton, is attempting to win Carshalton and Wallington from Tory MP Elliot Colburn.

Sadiq Khan’s former deputy mayors Heidi Alexander and Rajesh Agrawal are standing for Labour in Swindon South and Leicester East respectively, while former mayoral spin doctor Sarah Coombes is seeking to reclaim West Bromwich for the party.

Nick Bowes, managing director of insight at London Communications Agency, said: “While the addition of local government experience to the Green benches of Parliament is undoubtedly a good thing, it raises interesting questions about succession management in both the boroughs and at London Councils at a critical time.”