Nancy Jirira wins Fortune Green by-election, holding on to Lib Dem council seat

Nancy Jirira celebrates her victory in the Fortune Green by-election

Nancy Jirira (front row, second from the left) celebrates her victory in the Fortune Green by-election with Lib Dem colleagues - Credit: Benjamin Salmon

Flick Rea's replacement as the third councillor for Fortune Green will be NHS nurse Nancy Jirira, who won nearly half the vote.

Cllr Jirira – who was a narrowly-defeated council candidate in the ward in 2014 and also ran in neighbouring West Hampstead in 2018 – defeated rivals Lorna Greenwood from the Labour Party and Conservative candidate Ian Cohen.

This means the Lib Dem group on the council will still have three members.

The newly-elected Cllr Jirira received 1,197 votes, with Ms Greenwood in second with 849 and Mr Cohen coming third with 518.

The Green Party did not put up a candidate.

Turnout at the election was 29.8%, historically a low figure.

Cllr Jirira told the Ham&High of her elation at victory: “I’m really quite overwhelmed that the residents of Fortune Green have put their faith in the Liberal Democrat candidate and Liberal Democrat values.

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“The people saw [Labour-run] Camden Council was not listening. They said 'enough is enough'. 'Nobody listens to us’ was a major message we heard on the doorstep time and time again.”

NHS nurse Nancy paid tribute to her predecessor, who had held the seat since 1986.

“I owe so much to Flick with her experience," she said. "We’ve just fought a purely Liberal Democrat-valued campaign that she would be proud of.”

Cllr Jirira previously represented Fortune Green on Camden Council between 2008 and 2014.

Luisa Porritt, Belsize councillor and Lib Dem candidate for London Mayor in 2021, was at the election count and praised her party’s winning candidate.

“I am absolutely delighted that the win here continues Flick’s fantastic legacy in Camden. A huge congratulations to Nancy who will make a fantastic local councillor,” the former Member of the European Parliament said.

“I couldn’t be more proud or happy with the work that Nancy and everyone else has done to achieve this result.”

The Labour candidate, Ms Greenwood, was gracious in defeat: “Congratulations to Nancy. we’ve all worked really hard this campaign. But I’m also really proud of the campaigning that we in Labour ran.

“It was my first time running as councillor so I’m really pleased with what we’ve achieved. I’m going to carry on working within the community that I live.”

Labour hoped it could win this seat, which Flick Rea had held since 1986 before retiring earlier this year, but its vote-share fell by 2.7%.

The Labour leader of Camden Council, Cllr Georgia Gould, was at the count and said it was a disappointing result that Labour would build on.

“We’ll just continue to work to serve the community before the local elections next year,” Ms Gould said.

“It was always going to be a tough one for us because the Liberal Democrats have held this seat for as long as I’ve been alive and Flick [Rea] has an enormous legacy.

“When we talk to people, a lot felt they wanted to continue that legacy.”

Conservative candidate Ian Cohen, who runs a local dry cleaner and previously stood in 2014, told the Ham&High he was proud, despite the loss.

“We ran a positive campaign with fantastic support from across the area," he said.

But fellow Tory activist, the Hampstead Councillor Oliver Cooper, expressed frustration at the way the election was run.

“The Liberal Democrats organised this election and spent £30,000 of taxpayers money holding it on the only day they knew that they could win the seat. It’s therefore unsurprising that they held onto it in the end,” Cllr Cooper said.

“But the fact that the Labour vote went down shows that people in Fortune Green are desperate for change and have rejected Camden’s Labour administration.”

“The increase in the Conservative vote even in those difficult circumstances – when the Liberal Democrats had chosen the election day and the circumstances – shows that there’s movement towards the Conservatives next year.”

Local elections for Camden Borough Council will take place next year on the of May 5, 2022.