Call for by-election despite 'business as usual' claim by Lib Dems

PUBLISHED: 12:37 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:22 07 September 2010

By Katie Davies Kentish Town residents are calling for a by-election after Cllr Philip Thompson s dash to the US. The Lib Dems are insisting that it s business as usual despite his move across the Atlantic, but opponents say his situation is untenable. If

By Katie Davies

Kentish Town residents are calling for a by-election after Cllr Philip Thompson's dash to the US.

The Lib Dems are insisting that it's business as usual despite his move across the Atlantic, but opponents say his situation is untenable.

If a by-election is eventually called, it will be the sixth in Camden and the second in Kentish Town since May 2006.

Even the Lib Dems' coalition partners, the Conservatives, say Cllr Thompson should be forced to leave. Tory leader Cllr Andrew Marshall said: "I wasn't aware that he had moved and it is difficult to imagine the people of Kentish Town being happy with him staying as their councillor.

"It is possible that a councillor would be less available for one or two months - for example, if you've had a baby - but being away for a year or more would not be acceptable."

In the event of a by-election in Kentish Town, London Mayoral candidate for the Green Party Sian Berry, would be a likely contender. She narrowly missed out in the 2006 vote and lives in the ward but says her desire for a by-election is regardless of her own ambitions.

"He ought to be resigning rather than attempting to commute from Arizona. How effective can you be if you are thousands of miles away, doing a very busy course? People deserve a councillor who is going to stick around,'' she said. "A PhD is a serious commitment. It's fair enough if that's what he wants to do in life but he should have resigned."

Since the last council elections, Lib Dem Ralph Scott was the first politician to win a by-election in December 2006 when he joined Cllr Thompson, serving Kentish Town.

He defended Cllr Thompson's right to stay, and said: "Phil is a very hard-working councillor, dedicated to Kentish Town.

"He has kept in touch with casework. It is business as usual. So long as he can continue to dedicate his time by email, sorting out casework and residents problems, he can still make a contribution from there.

"Knowing him as I do, I think he will make a good go of it."

There was a by-election contest in Haverstock in July last year due to the late Labour councillor Roy Shaw's illness, as well as in Fortune Green in February following Lib Dem Jane Schopflin's death.

In May, there was a by-election in Highgate when Conservative Paul Barton resigned because of work pressures, and later this month Hampstead will select a replacement for fellow Tory Mike Greene who is hoping to become an MP for Bournemouth.

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