Please note this post is from my previous blog. To read my posts during the 2017 General Election campaign click here.
So, here we have it: my Labour opponent in the General Election, Matt Pennycook, has resigned his seat on the council – 52 days before an election he is evidently supremely confident of winning. There will now be a by-election to replace him in Greenwich West ward on the same day as the General Election, 7th May.
To be fair, an objective observer might conclude that he has logical reasons to fancy his chances in the other election happening that day – the area has been Labour since 1992 and the constituency is what commentators like to consider a ‘safe seat’. It’s what I like to consider a challenge.
I have to say, however, that I think resigning as a councillor on the presumption you are about to get voted in as the MP – before a single vote is cast – shows a breathtaking arrogance. This is a candidate who has previously talked about the need to change the culture of politics in Greenwich and “kick machine politics out of the Labour Party”. Ultimately, it’s all just talk. This decision shows he is just another part of the same Labour Party political machine that treats the voters with contempt. At the very least, he seems unable to stand up to the machine in the way that voters deserve.
Aftter Town Hall rumours that Matt was coming under pressure from colleagues to resign in time for a quick by-election, I asked the Leader of the Council Denise Hyland at meetings of the full council – twice – about plans for a councillor to resign to cause a by-election on the same day. She denied it on both occasions.
His supporters will claim he wants to avoid a separate by-election, that would be more costly for the council to organise, if he does win the parliamentary seat on 7th May. There was an easy answer to that – if he was so confident he will walk it, why did he cause that dilemma in the first place by standing for re-election last May, in the belief he would not serve his full term? As it happens, he has not even served a year. The last time he attended a council meeting was in December.
Much as he is a decent enough guy, this decision reveals that Matt Pennycook thinks Greenwich & Woolwich is a safe seat that he can take for granted. I am determined not to let that happen – and will continue to fight for every vote over the next 51 days.