Gospel Oak by-election: Marx hopes to lead Tory revolution as rubbish collection at the fore

Marx de Morais Picture: Marx de Morais

Marx de Morais Picture: Marx de Morais - Credit: Archant

The fall-out from Cllr Maeve McCormack’s resignation will mean a by-election – held most likely in the next two months – which could give an early indication of how Camden will vote in May next year.

Former Gospel Oak councillor Maeve McCormack. Picture: Dieter Perry.

Former Gospel Oak councillor Maeve McCormack. Picture: Dieter Perry. - Credit: Archant

Cllr McCormack is quitting Camden Council – and Camden – because she cannot afford to stay in the area.

Cllr Theo Blackwell, one of two remaining Gospel Oak councillors – and Labour cabinet member for finance, technology and growth – said the main issues in the ward are housing and investment.

“We’ve done good work on this already, making up for the cuts from the Tory government,” he said. “The question for the Tories is: What’s their plan?”

The man the Conservatives have chosen to communicate that plan – and to win a ward in which they came a distant second in 2014 – is East German-born Marx de Morais.

Cllr Theo Blackwell

Cllr Theo Blackwell - Credit: Archant

Leader of Camden Tories Claire-Louise Leyland said there is every chance the “incorrigibly hard-working” 38-year-old, who lives in Hampstead, could cause an upset.

“I’m very excited about him,” she said. “He’s been campaigning since the start of the year and I’m very optimistic about the election.”

Mr de Morais, a food designer and writer born on the island of Usedom in the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of the German Democratic Republic, told the Ham&High he was “extremely grateful” for the chance to stand.

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“I’ve learned much about the value of freedom – it’s not just a phrase to me,” he said. “I’m thankful for it every day. And there’s no other place in Europe where you can be as free as in the UK. I feel at home here.”

The main issue he intends to focus on in Gospel Oak is rubbish collection, highlighting that most of the ward will move to fortnightly pick-ups from April 1.

“Fly-tipping will increase and it doesn’t even save much money,” he said. “They should have cut something else, like the media budget.”

He added: “There’s no day when you don’t see two or three fly-tipping spots on Mansfield Road.”

Another of his worries is child poverty. He said: “We are living in London, in Camden, in the UK – and yet we have children who have nothing. Labour had 13 years to make a better society but they did nothing.”

Reflecting on Cllr McCormack’s decision to leave Camden, he said the cost of living had rocketed.

“But we can’t just put up one tower block after another – we need other facilities, too,” he said. “We don’t need more homes in Gospel Oak. At one point it’s enough.”

Asked about his motivations, he said one reason he is standing is because Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is “quite like one of those dictators from East Germany”.

He added: “I don’t want to have that in my adult life like I had it in my childhood.”