Newham is a Labour Borough, renowned for regularly having 100% of its seats held by Labour councillors. It happened at the 2010, 2014 and 2018 local elections.
Labour’s vote was very strong in much of London in May 2022. Newham’s votes were counted in the warm glow of Labour gaining Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet hours before, but Newham did not repeat its regular feat electing a one-party council. In the new 2-member ward Stratford Olympic Park, both Green candidates were elected.
It had been clear for some time that in Newham the Greens were targeting Stratford Olympic Park ward, announcing candidates in 2021. Astutely adding to any mood that their time had ‘arrived’, at the start of the formal campaign in early April 2022 they announced they were standing for every seat in the Borough for the first time.
Stratford Olympic Park ward is new, carved out due to the obvious and huge population growth. A clue is in the ward name. The previous three Labour councillors had a gigantic ward to represent during 2018-2022 on very outdated boundaries, a population the boundary commission recognised needed three wards.
The local Labour Party has been suspended for the entire period named Green candidates were campaigning in Stratford Olympic Park. The Stratford & New Town Branch Labour Party was not allowed to meet, its officers not allowed to contact its members. Labour didn’t have candidates until the last minute.
Labour benefited from Stratford Olympic Park candidates and a ward organiser with impeccable credentials in election campaigning, and party activists attending sessions report outstanding organisation and diligence. Yet those last minute candidates and their organiser were hamstrung by a suspended party and a very late campaign. The Newham-wide Labour approach was clear – concentrate on the party label, council candidate names are small print, posters should just say ‘Vote Labour’, circulate videos of the Mayoral candidate, and hope the council candidates piggy back on that work. The Greens, by contrast, were effectively communicating: ‘Vote Nate and Danny’. Newham Labour made no attempt to communicate the strengths and qualities of council candidates as individuals, seemingly believing the red rosette to be all the credentials required.
As for hoping the Mayoral campaign would help councillor candidates: Labour got 61% of votes across Newham for council candidates, but its Mayoral candidate only 56%.