Camden’s Eurosceptic councillors out themselves in vote
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Camden may have been found to be the fifth most “Europhile” borough in the UK in a recent survey, but after a vote at Monday’s council meeting, it was revealed there are two Eurosceptics on the Labour side – and four Tories who would prefer not to say.
Camden may have been declared the fifth most “Europhile” borough in the UK, but during a vote at full council, it was revealed there are two Eurosceptics on the Labour side – and four Tories who would prefer not to say which way they lean.
A motion was proposed by lone Liberal Democrat Flick Rea that the council supports the campaign to stay in Europe ahead of the June 25 referendum, seconded by Green Party mayoral candidate Cllr Sian Berry.
Just two councillors out of those present voted against the motion – veteran Labour councillor Roger Robinson, who represents St Pancras and Somers Town, and Ricahrd Cotton (Camden Town and Primrose Hill).
Sue Vincent (Holborn) and Kilburn duo Marayam Eslamdoust and Thomas Gardiner - all regarded as being from the left-wing of the Labour group - chose to abstain.
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Three Tory councillors – Oliver Cooper (Hampstead), Leila Roy (Belsize Park) and Roger Freeman (Swiss Cottage) – abstained, and Don Williams (Swiss Cottage) left the chamber rather than cast his vote.
Cllr Roy, who is a French national, said after the vote: “I’m not saying vote out. I’m saying it’s not my place as a local councillor to tell the British people how to vote.”
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Cllr Cooper said: “I don’t think we should be concentrating our energies on international trade issues when we should be focusing on serving the needs of local people during these meetings. I think it’s a pointless exercise to have these motions on matters outside of our control.”
The Conservative Group had been reluctant to reveal their stance on Europe ahead of the London mayoral elections, with leader Claire-Lousie Leyland saying the referendum debate was distracting from the race to City Hall - but the motion effectively forced their hand.
Cllr Rae said she was proposing the motion because she can remember the horrors of the Second World War.
She said: “Because I am one of the oldest people in the chamber, my own belief in Europe goes back to the fact that I don’t want my grandchildren or my great-grandchildren to grow up in the Europe that I grew up in in the 1940s.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Conservative Jonny Bucknell, who told the chamber that the one of the last doodlebugs to land in the UK had killed his uncle, whilst his father had narrowly escaped death as a firefighter during the Blitz.
Cllr Bucknell said: “To quote Mrs Thatcher, the EU is imperfect...all man-made institutions are imperfect, but it has brought us peace and stability in this country.”
And Labour’s Lazzaro Pietragnoli, who hails from Italy, expressed his appreciation for Europe’s open borders when he said: “I couldn’t be a councillor in this chamber if it wasn’t for the EU.”
Finance chief, Theo Blackwell expressed his belief in the EU’s trade benefits to Camdeners, claiming many local businesses were worried about the consequences of Brexit.
Conservative Andrew Marshall - who is actively campaigning to remain - was more wholehearted in his support of the motion than many of his colleagues on the opposition benches.
Cllr Marshall said: “I am very happy to support this motion...My own party has played a very considerable part in the campaign to stay...I can’t imagine any councillor here or in most London boroughs who would want to vote for Brexit.”
The motion states: “The council considers that UK membership of the European Union has many benefits for the residents and businesses of Camden and London as a whole,” and goes on to urge all those eligible to vote in referendum.
It was carried by a clear majority, making Camden the first of the London boroughs to formally support the campaign to remain.