NOT unexpected news coming out of the Conservative group in Camden tonight, Andrew Marshall – the leader – has stepped down. I say not unexpected but it’s not as if he has done an awful job. In fact he had a major role in keeping the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition afloat, clearly sharing a good working with his Lib Dem counterpart Keith Moffitt.
He’s fondly thought after by councillors of all political persuasions but he had the trickiest of jobs, balancing backbench disquiet whenever fidgety Tories felt too much ground was being given away to the other side of the coalition and a simple desire to make sure the power-sharing pact worked. He certainly made the most of being the junior partners in the contract and it always struck me that when positions were carved up in Keith’s kitchen, securing the schools, social services and environment portfolios from the deal was canny negotiating. Big jobs – and they didn’t have to take on the thorns of the housing department head on.
But for all his achievement, his resignation as leader – he will still be a councillor – is not unexpected because ultimately the Conservatives were put to the public vote in Camden on Thursday and failed to win major new ground at the Town Hall. There were cheers for gains in Belsize but a seat was dropped in Bloomsbury. There was no real expansion of influence. Put bluntly: they did not get close enough to winning overall control and Andrew inevitably began to think about a change of leadership. His colleagues will surely praise him for his swift decision. It shows how quickly it can all change.