‘This was a night all the stars were aligned for Labour’

Election fairytale for man believed to be the country’s longest-serving opposition councillor

Friday, 13th May — By Tom Foot

Paul Dimoldenberg

Paul Dimoldenberg: ‘I went into the count thinking we would have done well, but that I would be going to spend the next few years writing books and doing more travelling around Britain’

THERE won’t have been a bigger council election fairytale than that of Paul Dimoldenberg winning a seat in the Hyde Park ward held for so many years by his 1980s bête noire, Shirley Porter.

The former Westminster Labour leader, believed to be the country’s longest-serving opposition councillor, told the Extra this week he had initially stood in a “decoy operation” aiming at pulling Conservative resources away from hotly-contested marginal wards.

First elected to the council in 1982, he had been expecting to lose and was looking forward to retirement travelling the country and writing history books.

“Yes there is actually a lot of satisfaction for me in now being a Labour councillor for a ward represented by Shirley Porter for so many years,” he told Extra.

“To turn Hyde Park red, it’s just well… I was thinking of that famous Michael Caine line: ‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ Well we blew more than the bloody doors off. We turned Westminster red.”

Cllr Dimoldenberg wrote the The Westminster Whistleblowers book about Shirley Porter – who is still alive and now 90 years old – and the infamous “Homes for Votes” scandal.

He led a team that exposed a policy that was later found to be illegal where the council shifted the homeless into condemned accommodation and sold-off council homes in eight marginal wards to groups who were more likely to vote Conservative.

There was also a corruption scandal of cemeteries being sold off for 15p.

The former leader Dame Shirley Porter, a Tesco heiress who represented Hyde Park ward, was eventually found guilty of wilful misconduct and ordered to repay £12.3million.

Last year Cllr Dimoldenberg announced he would not contest his Queen’s Park safe seat, later agreeing to stand in the Tory stronghold Hyde Park.

He said: “We certainly never thought we’d actually win Hyde Park, or the council.

“But we had a real bonus, the unpopularity of Boris Johnson. So many former Conservative voters were saying they were going to vote Labour, or for the minority parties, or stay at home.

“That explains the lower turnout.

“The partygate controversy really affected Conservative voters too. Boris Johnson with his 12 to 15 parties at Downing Street and Whitehall, wine being brought in in suitcases, this did not go down well with decent law-abiding and long-standing residents.”

Cllr Dimoldenberg described the “daunting responsibility” of taking over the running of the council for the first time.

“I expected to increase our vote and get closer to the Conservatives.

“I went into the count thinking we would have done well, but that I would be going to spend the next few years writing books and doing more travelling around Britain.

“We didn’t realise the simple act of contacting residents would provoke such a positive response. This was the first time there that time people had been asked what they wanted and what they needed to be done. We were hearing this back from all over.

“We’ve had plans to win, but we’ve always fallen short.

“What happened on Thursday was that all stars were aligned and in the right direction.

“I think the Tories had taken Hyde Park and the whole of Westminster for granted. It’s going to hit them hard now.

“They will need to take some time to recover their poise and purpose. But things will never be the same in Westminster again.”

Related Articles