IN DEPTH: John Coburn - Lib Dems are fresh choice for Westminster Council

AFTER more than 40 years without a single Liberal Democrat councillor in Westminster, one of the party's rising stars has vowed that 2010 will be the year their losing streak ends. John Coburn is part of a major Lib Dem offensive to snatch

Sanchez Manning

AFTER more than 40 years without a single Liberal Democrat councillor in Westminster, one of the party's rising stars has vowed that 2010 will be the year their losing streak ends.

John Coburn is part of a major Lib Dem offensive to snatch Bayswater ward from under the Tories' noses in May's local elections.

And with the possibility of a hung parliament in which his party could hold the balance of power nationally, the Little Venice resident believes this is their best chance yet to breakthrough in the borough.


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"You're either one thing or another in Westminster - Labour or Tory," he said.

"But I think that type of politics is coming to an end now.

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"The Tories are very top down and the Labour party are like a nanny state telling people what they should be doing.

"So it's about breaking that old style politics of left and right and having a party that's on the side of ordinary people."

If elected Mr Coburn at just 27 years old will be one of, if not the youngest, councillor to join Westminster Council as part of its new intake.

But having been a member of the Liberal Democrat party since the tender age of 16, and already standing as a councillor in Cardiff, the housing charity worker says his youth will not hold him back.

"I think I'm in touch with people," he said. "A lot of what's gone on with national parties in the last 12 months shows how touch out of touch they are.

"I'm an ordinary guy from an ordinary background and I don't think my age is a barrier because Bayswater is such a mixed and culturally diverse part of London."

Originally from Blackpool, Mr Coburn moved to Little Venice two years ago.

He studied law at Cardiff University before going on to do a Masters degree in legal studies.

But after deciding to ditch a lucrative career as a lawyer for a more socially conscious profession, he took a job with the Housing Association Charitable Trust (HACT).

It was his belief in social justice and the protection of civil liberties which initially attracted him to the Lib Dems and continues to motivate him in his election campaigning.

The political hopeful said his party will take up the gauntlet on three main issues when fighting for Bayswater's three wards seats.

The first is housing.

"I'm pushing for the council to look again at the issue of affordable housing," he said.

"Overcrowding is one of the biggest causes of child poverty but very little is being done about that in Westminster.

"The council announced they were going to build 500 extra homes over five years, but it's just a sticking plaster really.

"What we're suggesting is getting more empty houses into use. There are 6,000 empty homes in the borough and so through grants and loans for the owners we want to get these properties back into use."

Secondly, it appears the Lib Dems are delving into the perpetual debate surrounding Westminster's parking restrictions - particularly in relation to the negative impact they have on local businesses.

"We don't agree with the increases in parking charges in the evening and the single yellow line charges," he said.

"And what we have been advocating is that the council should be looking at free parking facilities in the Queensway and Westbourne Grove area."

Mr Coburn said he and his fellow Lib Dem candidates in Bayswater Mark Blackburn, who is also standing in the national seat of Westminster North, and Anthony Williams have also joined Labour in the latest "20 is plenty" campaign.

However, he is quick to emphasise that his party pioneered the fight for a 20 miles per hour speed limit on the roads residents deem most dangerous.

But the would-be councillor seems most proud that his party has managed to stay away from the internal squabbles which have dogged both their rivals.

He said: "Our local party is a united party and we're happy with our candidates - unlike Westminster Conservatives who seem to be more interested in their own squabbles rather than the people they represent.

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