Lib Dem leader Flick Rea enters 8th election battle for council seat

Lib Dem leader Flick Rea in the kitchen of her Fortune Green home. She's standing in her eighth elec

Lib Dem leader Flick Rea in the kitchen of her Fortune Green home. She's standing in her eighth election since becoming a councillor in 1986 - Credit: Harry Taylor

Flick Rea is a fairly unique councillor, even it comes to Camden Council.

Few councillors, if any, are trained by the famed Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Even fewer have served in local government for 32 years, and have fought seven elections.

Cllr Rea is someone who ticks those boxes, and the Lib Dem leader is standing for her Fortune Green seat for the eighth time next month.

However in one of her toughest terms as a councillor since being elected in 1986, her candidacy was at times, in doubt.

“After being the only Lib Dem councillor left in 2014, I felt like giving up. Then I started to feel like the only girl in the playground, and then I got stroppy but I decided to try and make the best of it. Georgia Gould [leader of the council] and Claire-Louise Leyland [Conservative leader] have been very good at including me in things.

Cllr Flick Rea will help councils create an Olympic legacy. Picture by Dieter Perry

Cllr Flick Rea will help councils create an Olympic legacy. Picture by Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

“I did quite seriously consider giving up when I broke my arm last year, when I fell over in a heap and thought ‘I’m never going to get up again’, but my colleagues encouraged me to get up, dust myself off and do it all over again.’”

The election in 2014 provided a nadir for the party. Cllr Rea has previously described it as the worst day of her life, and felt “survivors guilt” afterwards for being the only person left.

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This was in stark contrast from eight years earlier, when after years in opposition, the Lib Dems were the largest party on Camden Council and Cllr Rea got the sports and leisure brief.

“We walked out of Camden Council that night, and I looked and thought ‘It’s mine, it’s all mine’. Of course it wasn’t, but we couldn’t believe it. Me, Keith Moffat [former Lib Dem leader] and a few others went to somebody’s house in Camden and we wondered what we were going to do.

“One of our top priorities was ending car clamping, and the head of parking said ‘Oh no, you can’t do that, it’s making us too much money’.

“We were insistent in the fact that they were going to stop it, and we did.”

Among her proudest achievements while on the council, was her restoration of Kentish Town baths, and another passion of hers, work on the libraries.

It was libraries which provided one of her most memorable moments in the council chamber, when Labour councillors revolted over their own plans to close six of Camden’s libraries in the late 1990s.

“It was electric, and of course we were happy, but Camden hadn’t seen anything like it before or since.

“One councillor told me afterwards it broke his heart to vote against his party.

“The Labour group hasn’t got over the collective memory of it since.”

To anybody who has seen her in the chamber, her theatre background wouldn’t be a surprise.

Her timing and wit has previously been used to great effect during council meetings.

“Being in the theatre does give you a belief in your abilities, but not in yourself.

“The timing and knowing how to get a laugh helps. I used to come home from council, and my late husband [Charles] would say ‘Did you get your laughs?’

“Like many people I went into the theatre because I wanted to be somebody else, but in theatre you get rejected because of something external, like your looks, whereas often in politics if you’re rejected it’s because of your label. It has been useful”

Cllr Rea hasn’t acted professionally for some years, however she did do a turn as an-ailing Margaret Thatcher at a Lib Dem conference a few years ago.

Her impression of the late Prime Minister is surreally accurate for somebody who describes herself as being on the left, environmental end of the Liberal Democrat spectrum.

The Lib Dems are hopeful ahead of the local elections, and are setting their sights on retaking seats in West Hampstead and Fortune Green, formerly Lib Dem strongholds.

“We’re campaigning on more police to combat moped and street crime, and locally we want to improve West Hampstead tube station with new lifts.

“We also want more affordable housing, Camden hasn’t been very good at insisting on things, and that’s something we would do,” she said.