The former Labour Councillor for Cannon Hill, Mark Kenny, has announced that he has defected to the Lib Dems and endorsed Paul Kohler’s campaign to be the next MP for Wimbledon.
Mr Kenny resigned as a Labour councillor in May this year. In the by-election held to choose his successor the Lib Dems won an historic victory, with local champion Jenifer Gould overtaking both the Conservatives and Labour to win.
Mr Kenny cited the Lib Dems’ unequivocally anti-Brexit stance and Paul Kohler’s reputation as a hard-working and effective local champion as key factors in his decision.
“Having seen Paul at work as a Merton councillor I know he will be a fine MP for Wimbledon working for the benefit of us all”, said Mark Kenny. “His spearheading of the successful campaign to keep Wimbledon police station open displayed many of his qualities: his hard work and attention to detail, his persistence and his determination not to give up.
“I have the utmost respect for him as a person of honesty and integrity and fully endorse his campaign to become our Liberal Democrat MP.”
“I know it isn’t easy to turn your back on your old party, but at this election we are seeing huge numbers of former Labour and Conservative voters coming over to the Lib Dems - not just because we are the only Remain party standing in Wimbledon, but because we are putting forward real solutions to Britain's most pressing problems”, said Lib Dem candidate Paul Kohler. “I want to thank Mark for his brave decision and his generous endorsement.
“Recent polling shows that the Liberal Democrats are the only party that can beat Boris Johnson’s Conservatives here in Wimbledon - Labour are simply too far behind.
“This election is our chance to stop Brexit and tackle the real issues facing our country, such as the climate emergency. I hope more people will follow Mark’s example and back me so that Wimbledon can have the strong pro-EU, anti-Brexit voice in Parliament it deserves.”
Mark Kenny’s endorsement comes on the back of Paul Kohler’s selection by cross-party anti-Brexit campaigning group Unite to Remain as the official ‘Remain Alliance’ candidate in Wimbledon. As part of the agreement the local Green Party stood aside in Wimbledon, while the former Green Party candidate Sonja Timpson has given her backing to Mr Kohler.
“I am stepping aside as Green Party parliamentary candidate in Wimbledon as I would like to be able to give voters a clear choice between a Remain candidate and candidates whose parties are either pro-Brexit or unclear in their position”, said Sonja Timpson.
“I will be voting for Paul Kohler because of our parties’ shared commitment to Europe and to voting reform, and also because I feel that this is our best chance of squashing any potential Tory majority.”
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The first specific poll of voters in Wimbledon shows a two horse race here, with the Conservatives holding the slimmest of leads over local Lib Dem, Paul Kohler.
It shows that 38% of Wimbledon residents said they would vote Conservative, with 36% currently intending to vote Lib Dem. The Labour Party are trailing in third place.
The poll was conducted by Deltapoll and paid for by non-party aligned individuals to provide objective data for the constituency.
“This poll reflects everything we’ve been hearing on the doorstep”, said Lib Dem candidate Paul Kohler. “Former Labour and Conservative voters are coming over to the Lib Dems in droves - not just because we're the largest anti Brexit party, but because we are putting forward real solutions to Britain's' most pressing problems.
“This election is our chance to stop Brexit and tackle the real issues facing our country, such as the climate emergency. Wimbledon deserves an MP who will stand up for the rights of EU citizens and fight for Britain’s place in the EU.
Local Lib Dems have welcomed the decision of the Green Party to stand aside at this election.
The cross-party anti-Brexit campaigning group Unite to Remain, will endorse the Lib Dem candidate Paul Kohler as the champion for anti-Brexit voters in Wimbledon. As part of the agreement the Green Party will not field its own candidate.
The announcement spells trouble for Wimbledon’s incumbent Conservative MP Stephen Hammond. Recent projections by the Best for Britain group predict a tight race in Wimbledon between the Liberal Democrats, who are pledging to ‘Stop Brexit’, and the pro-Brexit Conservatives.
Speaking following the announcement, Cllr Paul Kohler said:
“This election is our chance to stop Brexit and address the real issues facing our country, such as the climate emergency.
“Wimbledon’s current MP voted for Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit deal and has repeatedly refused to give his constituents, who are overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit, an opportunity to have the final say.
“As the official Remain Alliance candidate in Wimbledon I am best placed to beat him and ensure Wimbledon has a Remainer MP that it deserves.
“I am grateful to the Merton Greens for standing aside in this election”, Cllr Kohler added. “We share a determination to end the catastrophe of Brexit and a strong commitment to protecting our precious planet from the damage being done by climate change, and with the support of local people I can win Wimbledon and stop Brexit.”
Sonja Timpson, the Green Party’s former candidate for Wimbledon, said:
“I am stepping aside as Green Party parliamentary candidate in Wimbledon as I would like to be able to give voters a clear choice between a Remain candidate and candidates whose parties are either pro-Brexit or unclear in their position.
“I will be voting for Paul Kohler because of our parties’ shared commitment to Europe and to voting reform, and also because I feel that this is our best chance of squashing any potential Tory majority.
“Merton Green Party is a growing force and we have worked hard over recent years to promote affordable housing, to highlight the problems with outsourcing and to tackle the ongoing litter problem in the borough. Our members are active in a number of local environmental groups and we played a key role in persuading the council to pass a cross-party motion to declare a Climate Emergency. We trust that Paul Kohler will look at prioritising some of these issues as Wimbledon’s Member of Parliament.”
Liberal Democrat candidates Sarah Olney, Munira Wilson, Ed Davey and Paul Kohler are writing to the South Western Railway and the RMT rail union to demand that they stop the planned strikes immediately.
Members of the RMT will walk out for 27 days throughout December, causing chaos to commuters, to businesses and to people travelling for Christmas.
Following reports that more than half of the 25,000 EU nationals living in Merton have not yet been given settled status - while around a third nationally have had their applications rejected - the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, Cllr Paul Kohler, slammed the government for refusing to guarantee every EU citizen’s right to stay in the UK after Brexit.
“I am extremely concerned for the thousands of EU citizens here in Merton who are facing uncertainty over their futures, and I fully support Merton Council’s efforts in urging all EU nationals to apply for settled status as soon as possible.
“However, there is no point ignoring the real issue here: this Conservative Government is actively making it as difficult as possible for EU citizens who have made their homes here to stay.
“This is a callous act from an immoral government, and one which runs totally contrary to Britain’s liberal values of openness to all.
“As it stands thousands of people here in Merton - some of whom have lived in the borough for decades, raised families here and made significant contributions to their local communities - could find themselves at risk of being told to leave the UK as a direct result of this government’s actions.
“I call on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do the decent thing and immediately guarantee every single EU citizen’s right to remain in the UK.”
A meeting of Merton council last month passed a Merton Liberal Democrat motion to cut engine idling to promote cleaner air.
The Liberal Democrat motion, which was passed unanimously, aims to improve air quality in the borough by introducing `No Idling' zones, particularly near schools.
Speaking after the meeting, Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Kohler, said:
"Cutting air pollution is a public health issue, as well as an environmental one. Evidence shows that air pollution has links to various health conditions, and shorter life expectancy. That's why we must improve air quality in the borough, particularly round local schools.
"I'm delighted that our motion passed with cross-party support, and I look forward to Merton Council taking real action against idling to improve air quality."
A cross-party committee of councillors has blocked Labour’s plans to hike parking charges by up to 130% due to the Council’s failure to follow proper equalities procedures.
Wednesday evening’s special meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission was arranged after the Lib Dem and the Conservative groups each submitted separate motions to ‘call in’ the Council’s proposals to raise the costs of parking permits in Wimbledon and Raynes Park.
During the crunch meeting Cllr Anthony Fairclough, proposer of the Lib Dem call-in, challenged the plan for its failure to follow the Council’s set equality assessment process. The Council’s analysis of the plan identified potential disproportionate impacts on people with disabilities, pregnant women and women who’ve just given birth, as well as some people on low incomes.
In his submission, Cllr Fairclough showed that the Council had failed to consult people from the relevant groups appropriately over ways to minimise any negative impacts - contrary to the Council's published process. He also challenged the Council over the total lack of evidence to support claims that the charges would lead to a reduction in car ownership, and thereby improve air quality:
“When considering groups protected by our equality laws, the relevant principle is ‘no decision about us, without us’.
“That clearly did not happen here. I am pleased that councillors from all parties on the Commission were able to hold the Council to account for failing to follow its equality process.”
The Commission voted to refer the proposal back to the Council cabinet to carry out a proper equality assessment. The Liberal Democrat call-in can be seen on Youtube here.
The Merton Liberal Democrats have assembled a response to Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGCBE)’s 2019 review of the ward boundaries of Merton. We conducted a survey of our members, supporters and local residents, to seek your help in determining the local communities with which people identify and gather views on how the current boundaries might be improved.
Having analysed the results of this survey, we used these insights, alongside our own experience having lived, worked, and in several cases represented these wards, to formulate a complete scheme for the wards of the borough guided by the legally mandated criteria for ward boundaries which the commission is obliged to follow. You can see our submission in the document linked below.
Download the Merton Liberal Democrat response here
A formal challenge to Merton Labour’s plans to massively increase parking charges based on where people live has been lodged by Lib Dem councillors.
The Council Cabinet forced agreed the plan at its meeting on 15 July 2019, and in response, an application to “call in” the decision was made by the Liberal Democrat group on Saturday 20th July.
Lib Dem council group leader Anthony Fairclough said:
“The Labour administration says these new charges will reduce traffic and encourage people to give up their cars, but they’ve repeatedly failed to provide any evidence that suggests this is likely to happen1.
“The scheme looks like it’s purely to raise revenue, mainly targeted at people who live in areas that don’t elect Labour councillors – Wimbledon and Raynes Park – where the new charges will be highest. We hope that the ‘call-in’ will force them to look at their plans again.
"Instead we want them to look seriously at schemes where the worst polluting vehicles pay more, where support is given to help people change to greener vehicles, and where other positive action is also taken to improve air quality."
In addition, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, Cllr Paul Kohler, is speaking to lawyers from the same firm who represented him in his legal action to save Wimbledon Police Station, about whether the measures are legal.
“Facts matter: how can Labour say that raising taxes on parked cars will improve air quality and health outcomes when council officers have confirmed that no such evidence has been provided?
“Furthermore, Council officers indicated that some older and disabled people, women who are pregnant or who have just given birth, and those with lower incomes could be badly affected by the policy2, and yet there doesn’t seem to have been any real consultation with those affected about how to reduce the negative impact. This is basic equality law.
“I am currently consulting my lawyers to see whether we can challenge this policy in the courts as discriminatory. I took the Mayor of London to court to reverse his unlawful decision to close Wimbledon Police Station and I’m quite willing to do the same with Merton Council if solicitors confirm we have a good case.”
“I hope sense will prevail, as I have no wish to embroil our Council in legal action. All I am asking is that they adopt a non-discriminatory approach to addressing the very real financial pressures caused by the Government’s failure to fund local government properly.
“The decision lacks: evidence that it will improve air quality; logic - they are increasing costs in those areas where air quality is best; principle - they are only applying it to areas that tend not to vote Labour; and buy-in - with over 3000 submissions to the consultation3 nearly all of whom opposed the measures.”
Merton Council has declared a climate emergency.
The declaration was seconded by newly elected Lib Dem councillor for Cannon Hill, Jenifer Gould, who used her maiden speech to urge the Council to take strong action against climate change.
Following the meeting Cllr Gould said:
“Our environment is one of our most precious assets, and protecting it for ourselves and for our children should be the first priority of any politician.
“I am proud that my first act as a councillor for Cannon Hill has been to second this important motion to declare a climate emergency here in Merton, and to kick-start the urgent action needed to eliminate carbon emissions in the borough.
“This is why I wanted to become a councillor - to take real action to address the issues that really concern local people. This is only the beginning, and I look forward to continuing to make a difference for residents in Cannon Hill and across Merton.”
You can watch Cllr Gould's speech here, and Lib Dem deputy leader Cllr Carl Quilliam's speech here.
Liberal Democrat council group leader Anthony Fairclough added:
"I am pleased to have been able to work with the Cabinet Member to develop this Climate Change Emergency declaration for Merton.
"We pushed for the emissions of contractors like Veolia be considered part of the Council’s target to become carbon neutral by 2030. This is because we fear that the Merton’s achievements so far in reducing emissions from the 2012 base level are largely on the basis of excluding Veolia and IDVerde operations from the calculation.
"We were also keen to create a framework that gives the new working group space to come up with innovative ways support residents and businesses reduce emissions – and yet one that shows real public leadership. Accepting the Labour party's proposal of a date of 2050 to make the borough carbon neutral is a compromise. It’s in line with both national targets and Council fears about cost and ability to meet targets - but with the caveat that we want to see as much active support as possible for people to cut their carbon emissions, with the aim that carbon neutrality is reached as soon as possible and before 2050.