Labour tightened its control of Camden as the Conservatives took a hammering, losing their leader and three other councillors — with some putting the blame at the door of Downing Street.
An election gamble by Oliver Cooper, who moved from Hampstead Town to try to boost the Conservative vote in Belsize saw him lose his place on the council after seven years.
An ashen-faced Cooper, who was leader of the opposition last term, said he took responsibility for the decision.
Candidates distanced themselves from the national party and chose to stand as Local Conservatives instead. But it was still a bad night for them.
Architect Steve Adams lost his seat after four years as a councillor in Belsize. He was absent from the count because of Covid.
His colleague Gio Spinella (Frognal) said: “Brexit did for us in 2018 and Boris Johnson and partygate did for us in 2022.”
It was no surprise that voters returned a Labour council, but the opposition will now be Liberal Democrat.
Council leader Georgia Gould said: “It has been an overwhelming and sometimes surprising victory for Labour.”
She said voters elected “the most passionate, diverse group of candidates we have ever seen”.
One of the surprise wins was Adrian Cohen, who went to bed because he did not expect to win a seat for Labour in Hampstead Town. He returned to the count after finding out he will represent the traditionally safe Conservative seat with the Tory incumbent Stephen Stark.
Cllr Gould paid tribute to Oliver Cooper and said “he’s given a lot to this borough”.
Whilst the campaign saw great debate, she said it was marred by some “incidents of reallly horrible racism”.
“I just want to say to those racists in Camden — we are no place for hate.”
Cllr Gould said the cost of living figured strongly on the doorsteps, “with people going without electricity, going without food so that their children can eat”.
The cost of living crisis and concern over huge plans at the 02 Shopping Centre on Finchley Road and Selkirk House in Bloomsbury dominated hustings, along with the controversial people-friendly streets brought in during the pandemic.
Liberal Democrat Tom Simon, who was returned in Belsize, said it “was a tactical error” by Cooper to take the fight to his ward.
The party is now the largest opposition in Camden, with four councillors after they gained one seat.
The Greens lost one seat with Highgate’s Sian Berry now the sole party member. Lorna Russell, who crossed the floor to the Greens from Labour, was not returned. Labour’s Anna Wright was elected instead.
Candidate David Stansell, who stood in Highgate, said: “It was really noticeable that there was an explicit desire to punish Boris Johnson.
“Our job as Greens is to say if you don’t want a one-party state in Highgate, vote Green.”
Turnout across the borough was described by one candidate as “sluggish”.
Labour’s Richard Olswewski, who was re-elected to Fortune Green, said: “A lot of people have been viscerally angry about Boris Johnson. It reminds me of what it was like where people really hated Thatcher. It’s that kind of intense anger.”
The council is now made up of 47 Labour councillors, three Conservatives, four Liberal Democrats, and one Green.