The by-election comes at a crucial time for Newham’s Labour Party, as they battle division and resignations.
By Dean Armond
The Plaistow North by-election in November was won by Sophia Naqvi, who stood as an independent candidate, overcoming a Labour Party majority of nearly 2,000 to win with 1,266 votes. The turnout was approximately 25 per cent.
Her campaign was supported by Cllr Mehmood Mirza, another independent who also overturned a large Labour majority earlier in the year in a by-election in Boleyn Ward, and Cllr Zuber Gulamussen who had resigned from the Labour Party a few days before the by-election citing his disquiet with the Labour Party response to the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
The three have formed a group known as the Newham Independents, who now outnumber the official Opposition, the Green Party, which has two members of the Council, Nate Higgins and Danny Keeling.
Belgica Guana, herself a former Labour Party member, has not joined this group but sits as an independent councillor.
Formerly a Labour Party member, Sophia Naqvi resigned several weeks ago in protest at the way that the Labour Party, and in particular party leader Sir Keir Starmer, had responded to the situation in Gaza and the failure to call for a ceasefire.
The by-election was triggered by the unexpected resignation of Cllr. Daniel Lee-Phakoe ‘for personal reasons’ in October.
The suspension of both the East Ham and West Ham Constituency Labour Parties meant that the Branch Labour Parties in each Ward can no longer select Councillor candidates, so the candidate was selected by Labour Party National Executive Committee.
Local resident Aktharul Anam was selected as the Labour Party candidate, but his campaign was overshadowed by the developments in Gaza, which has divided Labour members and is an issue that clearly resonated with local residents in Plaistow North.
Newham Council Cabinet has also been impacted by the Gaza situation. Cllr Joshua Garfield, resigned from his position as Cabinet member for Education. His resignation followed a resolution passed at the October Council meeting expressing support for the Palestinian victims of the conflict.
Plaistow North by-election result November 2023: https://www.newham.gov.uk/council/elections