Westminster Council leadership race: Frontrunners named

Bookmakers make Cllr Ed Argar favourite to succeed Cllr Colin Barrow as three clear candidates emerge

News of a vacancy in one of the most powerful positions in local politics is likely to spark a lively leadership contest in Westminster.

As a flagship Conservative council in the heart of the capital city, the next Westminster Council leader will enjoy a position almost unrivalled in the world of local politics.

Although Cllr Colin Barrow is not due to step down from the post until March, the race for his successor has already begun with potential candidates starting to canvas support at a meeting of the Westminster Conservatives last night (Wednesday).

A number of frontrunners have been spoken about as potential leaders and Conservative party sources say the new leader is likely to come from three possible candidates.

One Tory councillor said: “Philippa Roe, Ed Argar and Jonathan Glanz are the names that I have heard that are interested. I have been told that Brian Connell is not interested.”

Another councillor said Melvyn Caplan had also expressed interest in the role.

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Bookmakers have installed Cllr Argar as the early odds-on favourite to triumph in the election race, with Cllr Roe the second favourite.

At the age of 34, Cllr Argar, who represents Warwick ward in the south of the borough, is the youngest of the potential candidates and is seen by some colleagues as an opportunity to provide a new direction for the council.

His main competition seems likely to come from finance chief Cllr Roe who says she is “considering her options”.

As former Westminster housing boss, Cllr Roe is best known for introducing a number of controversial policies in the borough, including giving housing priority to people who “do the right thing and get a job”.

Cllr Glanz, the third favourite, is the least experienced of the main candidates having only been elected on to Westminster Council in a by-election in 2009 and taken over as housing boss last year.

If Cllr Caplan was to triumph, he would recapture the leadership role that he previously held from 1995 to 2000.

The Little Venice councillor is chief whip of the Westminster Conservatives and current customer services and transformation boss.

* ED ARGAR, 34, cabinet member for city management, Cllr for Warwick

Born in Kent, Cllr Argar studied modern history at Oriel College, Oxford University, before completing a Masters’ degree.

After leaving Oxford he worked as political adviser and speechwriter for Michael Ancram MP between 2001 and 2005 before leaving to pursue a career in management consultancy.

He was elected to the council in 2006 and contested the Oxford East seat at the 2010 general election where he finished third.

* PHILIPPA ROE, 49, cabinet member for strategic finance, Cllr for Knightsbridge and Belgravia

Cllr Roe left her role as director of financial services firm Citigroup when she gave birth to twins and decided that a City career was incompatible with being a mother.

She was part of the team that came up with the Private Finance Initiative and was elected to Westminster Council in 2006. She is a vice chairman of Macmillan Cancer Support London Events and a patron of Breast Cancer Haven.

* JONATHAN GLANZ, 51, cabinet member for housing and property, Cllr for West End

He practised as a solicitor, but left the world of law in 1990 to set up his own property business which owns and rents out properties in Marylebone and other parts of central London.

Prior to his election to the council in 2009, Cllr Glanz was chairman of the Marylebone Association from 2001 to 2004 and remained on the committee until becoming a councillor.

He is married with a teenage son.