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Labour deselect long-serving Cambridge councillor Kevin Blencowe

By Josh Thomas, Local Democracy Reporter

Labour has denied claims of tensions within the party as it emerges one of Cambridge’s longest-serving councillors will not stand for election this year having been deselected.

Cllr Kevin Blencowe. Picture: Keith Heppell. (6425501)
Cllr Kevin Blencowe. Picture: Keith Heppell. (6425501)

Cllr Kevin Blencowe, who represents Petersfield ward in Cambridge, will not stand in city council elections in May. Current Cambridge Labour Party chairman Mike Davey will stand for Labour in his place.

It is understood Cllr Blencowe, who has represented Petersfield for 24 out of the last 25 years, was deselected following a vote by local Labour party members.

Cambridge Labour Party “strongly disagrees” that Cllr Blencowe’s deselection is indicative of a split within the party.

Cllr Blencowe expressed his sadness at having not been selected to stand in May, but said he respected the democratic process and the right of the party to choose its candidates. Despite this, he admitted the decision “doesn’t sit comfortably” with him.

Cllr Blencowe said: “I am saddened that I have not been granted the opportunity to stand once again for re-election to the City Council as Labour’s candidate in Petersfield in May later this new year.

“Having been a Labour City Councillor for the Petersfield Ward for 24 of the last 25 years I was very disappointed to say the least that a small number of fellow Labour Party members in the Petersfield branch at a meeting before Christmas chose someone else to contest the Petersfield City Council seat for Labour this year.

“Whilst accepting they had the right to do so under Labour Party rules I’m afraid it doesn’t sit comfortably with me at the moment. The several hundred other Labour Party members living in Petersfield who didn’t vote in the recent selection process, not having attended the particular meeting, can make their own minds up as to how they view the decision that has been made on their behalf. Similarly the good residents of Petersfield, city wide Labour members and supporters, as well as everyone else can make of it all as they see it.”

Cllr Blencowe said his commitment to the city and the Petersfield ward is “undiminished”, and that he would continue to work until the election.

He said: “I will continue to put my heart and soul into fulfilling the many roles and responsibilities I have been given. I am a glass half full type of person and remain philosophical about the present situation.”

Alluding to Cambridge councillor Donald Adey, who still sits as a councillor despite having moved 400 miles away, Cllr Blencowe said he has no plans to move to Scotland.

“Neither for that matter to Wales,” he added. “Ireland, Tenerife, Timbuktu or anywhere else away from Cambridge.”

Cllr Blencowe said he is “heartened” by the support of fellow labour city councillors, and hinted he may even re-join them at some point in the future.

Labour’s Lewis Herbert, leader of Cambridge City Council, paid tribute to his colleague, and expressed his hope Cllr Blencowe would return in the future.

Cllr Herbert said: “Democracy works locally in the Labour Party. Ward members decide who they want as their candidates, and selections are often keenly fought. It’s then the ward’s choice who they select. As in other parties in Cambridge, that means that sometimes sitting councillors do not win the local contests.

“I’m glad Kevin is keeping his options open, as I and others want him to stand again as a Labour City Councillor in the future.

“Along with my councillor colleagues, I want Kevin’s contribution as a councillor and citywide work on the council over many years to be fully recognised.This includes his impressive lead on planning, the delivery of sustainable development and large numbers of affordable homes for rent including 30 per cent in major new Cambridge developments, on creating the joint planning service with South Cambridgeshire and in securing the transport and infrastructure investments the city badly needs.”

Mr Davey missed out after standing as a candidate in Newnham last year. He has lived in Riverside in Cambridge for the last ten years and is married with three children. He worked for the county council from 1999 to 2013 where he was involved with services for children and young people.

Mr Davey said: “I am immensely proud to have been selected as the Labour candidate for Petersfield, a community I know very well, as I spend most days of my life in the ward.”

Mr Davey is the current treasurer for the neighbourhood group Abbey People, and is chair of governors at Abbey Meadows Primary School, and Chair of the Board at Centre 33, a charity for young people.

A spokesman for the Cambridge Labour Party denied claims there is a split in the Labour party, and said all selections are “keenly fought”.

The spokesman said: “The selection process in Petersfield was in keeping with the selection process in all wards across Cambridge.

“The selection was done in accordance with the Labour Party rulebook, with an external Labour observer in attendance. As Councillor Lewis Herbert has previously stated, ward members decide who they want as their candidates and selections are often keenly fought, which sometimes result in sitting Councillors not winning local selections.

“We strongly disagree with the suggestion that the selection was to ‘bolster’ any wing of the party in the City.

“Cambridge Labour Party is a broad church of members who work successfully together to elect representatives and to run a council that is reducing inequality, providing services to those in need and continuing to ensure Cambridge remains a world-leading city in the fight against climate change.”

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