NEW LABOUR lost control of Islington council, north London, before Christmas after a by-election defeat. Islington was hailed as a model New Labour council. The Liberal Democrats have now taken control after winning a by-election in the Hillrise ward. The Liberal Democrats polled 1,317 votes to New Labour's 695. That was despite a series of New Labour cabinet ministers canvassing in the ward.
The vote shows how bitter Labour voters feel, not only in the party's core areas but also in places which are supposed to be more in tune with Blair's New Labour thinking. That the Tory candidate got just 33 votes shows the result was not a rightward shift among electors. People voted for the Liberal Democrats to punish New Labour. The Tory vote was six less than a local parent who stood to oppose the privatisation of Islington's education service. Campaigners succeeded in making opposition to privatisation an issue in the election. But people felt the best way to hurt New Labour was to vote Liberal Democrat.
Many voters may hope that the Liberal Democrats will care more about ordinary people than New Labour. But, despite the occasional radical words, the Liberal Democrats are just as pro-business as New Labour.