Joy for Greens as Lorna Russell holds Highgate seat in comfortable by-election victory

New Highgate councillor Lorna Russell. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Jubilant Green politician Lorna Russell is celebrating a return to the Town Hall after voters in the Highgate by-election backed her overwhelmingly.

A delighted Russell won comfortably with 1,513 votes – more than double the ballot papers cast for Labour’s Patricia Leman, who took second place with 740 votes.

Russell crossed the floor from Labour to the Greens in 2021, when she was a councillor for Fortune Green and was also serving as deputy mayor. She stood in Highgate ward as a Green in the May 2022 council elections but was unsuccessful.

But it was all smiles at the by-election as the Greens kept the Highgate seat and party number crunchers said their share of the vote was boosted.

Russell will take the seat vacated by her Green party colleague Sian Berry, who stood down after nine years to concentrate on her parliamentary campaign in Brighton.

Highgate is the most northerly ward in Camden and is part of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s Holborn and St Pancras parliamentary constituency.

The turnout for yesterday’s by-election was just 33 per cent.

Russell is the only Green councillor in the Labour-controlled council.

She said: “I now have a mandate to challenge the council.

“I felt quite constrained as a Labour councillor and there were things I could not agree with on a local level like the 02 development and changing bin collections. I have the ability to question them now.”

Earlier this year, she contested the council by-election in South Hampstead.

Russell said she wants to ensure residents have a voice.

“People are concerned about the cost of living and housing and on a local level they just felt that Camden was not listening.”

She said people are concerned about poor responses to housing repairs, problems with heating systems on their estates and developments which could change Highgate.

Labour candidate and retired teacher Leman, who is known as Tricia, had pledged to put people first.

She campaigned for more affordable homes and said she would push for more money to keep them in good repair.

Her Labour colleague, deputy council leader Adam Harrison, said: “Tricia was a great candidate and she would have made a great contribution in our community.”

He said Labour has not held all three seats in the ward for the last 20 years.

Local Conservatives candidate Wakjira Feyesa won 240 votes.

He said: “People are worried about council tax, overdevelopment and policing.”

Feyesa had suggested police hold regular surgeries in coffee shops to talk to residents.

Liberal Democrats candidate Farrell Monk won 84 votes.

He said: “One of the things that came up most on the doorstep was traffic enforcement.”

He said some residents offered the Liberal Democrats support in the future but planned “to vote Green to make sure Labour did not get in”.

Conservative agent Don Williams said: “Labour have been haemorrhaging votes in every by-election in Camden since 2022.”

Liberal Democrat Linda Chung won in the Hampstead Town by-election in July 2022.

Labour’s Tommy Gale won the South Hampstead by-election in June 2023. Russell also stood for that seat, but will now join Labour’s Camron Aref-Adib and Anna Wright in representing Highgate ward.

The full results are: Wakjira Feyesa, Local Conservatives, 240; Patricia Leman, Labour, 740; Farrell Monk, Liberal Democrats, 84; Lorna Russell, Green, 1,513.

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