WHO cares about the council elections in Haverstock ward in Camden next week when we know already that Labour has enough seats to run the Town Hall? Quite a few of Camden’s political number crunchers actually. There’s more at stake on Tuesday than at first glance.
Labour has 30 seats in the bag from this month’s main poll – the Lib Dems have 10, Conservatives 10 and Greens 1.
That means it’s 30 plays 21 in terms of Labour being guaranteed enough votes to push through policies in the council chamber.
If the Lib Dems hold all three seats in Haverstock, then suddenly it’s Labour 30 playing a possible opposition of 24 at the Town Hall (on the basis that every councillor reports for duty at every meeting).
A nine vote cushion cut to a six seat difference.
When you whittle down the gap like that a unified opposition to an unpopular Labour policy could in theory break away two or three dissenters on key issues. The most famous example of this in Camden is when Labour members broke ranks over library closures in the 1990s.
Now, throw in the potential for by-elections and defections – the Lib Dems gained three seats in this way in the last administration – and suddenly it’s a little more uncomfortable for Labour than the current picture. Not unworkable, the whips would have to make sure councillors aren’t off on holiday or sick for crucial votes – most importantly on the night the budget is set each year.