The Liberal Democrats may no longer control the town hall, but they are enjoying high praise within their own party. Last weekend they were named local opposition group of the year at the Lib Dems’ spring conference.
The 14 councillors, led by Highbury East’s Terry Stacy, were chosen for the accolade by judges including party president Tim Farrow and deputy leader Simon Hughes.
After losing their council majority last May, the borough’s Lib Dems have provided vocal opposition to the 34 members of the ruling Labour group. Terry Stacey, the leader of the opposition, believes that despite their inferior numbers, his group has done well to curb Labour’s “barmy” policies.
Mr Stacy said: “It’s nice to be acknowledged by the party nationally. I think we have provided an extremely strong opposition since Labour took over in the town hall.
“Our job is to constantly peer over their shoulder and scrutinise what they are doing, and I think we’ve not only proved a constructive opposition but also been good at holding them to account and making them reconsider some of their more barmy ideas.
“We’ve made them change their mind about their proposed changes to parking charges and the decision to close Sotheby Mews, so these are two areas where we have been a very effective opposition and very constructive at the same time.”
While the Lib Dems in Islington may be celebrating a minor victory, nationally the picture is not so rosy. Earlier this month the party came sixth in the Barnsley Central by-election, falling behind both UKIP and the BNP. Last week the party’s spring conference in Sheffield was marred by protests, while members inside rebelled against the NHS reforms laid out by their coalition partners the Conservatives.
But Mr Stacy was quick to point out that, although he understands the problems faced by his Westminster counterparts, his group in Islington were not in the same situation as Nick Clegg’s MPs.
He said: “It took ten years of Lib Dem rule in Islington to sort out the problems left by Labour’s spending – so we know what it’s like sorting out their mess.
“But we never signed up to a coalition agreement ourselves. We were elected by the people of Islington and we will serve them.
“If we think the party in Westminster is doing something wrong then we will point it out, as we showed when I, along with 87 other Lib Dem councillors, co-signed a letter to The Times calling for a slowdown in spending reductions.”