A local councillor has made it on to the “long list” of Labour candidates to fight the Cities of London and Westminster parliamentary constituency in December’s general election, reports LabourList.

Labour member canvassing.
Pancho Lewis, left, with Labour members canvassing in Mayfair this summer. Photo: Pancho Lewis.

Pancho Lewis, who was first elected last year to represent the West End ward on Westminster City Council, wrote to supporters in mid-October saying he was putting his name forward after local Labour members had encouraged him to run.

In an email to party members he set out three reasons why he was standing.

“First, I’m worried that a candidate might be parachuted in from the outside, as is unfortunately often the case, especially when an election is imminent. This would be a candidate who knows very little about our constituency, and indeed has very few, if any, connections to our community. For me it’s crucial that politics is local, so that representatives genuinely understand the issues people face and know how to respond to them. The majority of names that are being spoken of for the Labour candidacy do not live here and aren’t engaged in local life.

“Second, I believe there’s an opportunity to take what I’ve learned as a councillor and advocate on behalf of residents at a national level. The Council plays an important role in local life, but many of the issues we experience — whether it’s overdevelopment, the rough sleeping crisis, or toxic air quality — are largely influenced by national factors. As an MP, I would have a seat at the table to shape policy responses nationally.

“Third, I want to develop a platform that can unite people around a shared vision. At a time when there’s so much polarisation, it’s crucial to put forward a reasoned case for change which means people with contrasting views feel heard whilst also addressing the root causes of our social grievances. I think one of my strengths is to bring people together and build bridges even where there are differing opinions and outlooks,” he wrote.

He also said he would continue to be a local councillor.

Since then he has received support from the big hitters in the Westminster Labour group including Paul Dimoldenberg and Adam Hug.

Lewis is one of eight candidates on the long list, after the selection process was opened up to fresh applications when the previous candidate Steven Saxby withdrew and was later suspended from the party pending investigation of a sexual harassment complaint, an allegation he denies.

Incumbent MP Mark Field has announced that he will not be contesting the seat for the Conservatives at the next election. Earlier this year he was suspended as a foreign office minister after he was caught on video grabbing a woman by the neck and pushing her out of the Mansion House. Field said he was standing down because of the way the Conservative government was handling brexit.

Field’s majority at the last election was only 3,148 and the constituency is now regarded as a marginal and a target seat for Labour.

If Lewis is successful in his bid to become the Labour candidate he could end up going head to head with the leader of Westminster council Nickie Aiken if she is chosen to stand for the Conservatives.

The Labour and Conservative candidates will be up against Chuka Umunna, a former Labour front bencher, who is now standing for the Liberal Democrats; and a former Liberal Democrat, Zack Polanski, who is now standing for the Green Party.

The 2019 United Kingdom general election will be held on Thursday 12 December 2019. Residents in Westminster should register to vote on the council’s website.