Cabinet member resigns to fight for Nadine Dorries’ seat

Council lead for 15 minute neighbourhoods Alistair Strathern’s resignation comes two months after launching his campaign to take on the Mid-Bedfordshire MP’s seat, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Alistair Strathern, Credit: Waltham Forest Council

A Waltham Forest Labour councillor has resigned to focus on campaigning to take Nadine Dorries’ seat in an upcoming by-election.

Alistair Strathern’s resignation today follows the news that Dorries, a Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, had stepped down.

For the past two months, Cllr Strathern, who serves as cabinet member for 15-minute neighbourhoods, has campaigned as the Labour Party’s candidate for Dorries’ seat, a one-hour drive from Waltham Forest.

However, Dorries has now formally tendered her resignation and a by-election has been called for 19th October. Cllr Strathern’s resignation means there is also likely to be a by-election in his Waltham Forest Council ward, Higham Hill.

During his Mid-Bedfordshire campaign, he has repeatedly accused Dorries of being a “part-time MP”. In addition to his work as a Waltham Forest cabinet member, Cllr Strathern’s LinkedIn profile lists a full-time role as “climate lead” at the Bank of England. 

Cabinet members in Waltham Forest receive a yearly allowance of £37,777.

In a statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) in July, Cllr Strathern said he has gone on unpaid leave from his role as “climate lead” at the Bank of England and that his “main residence” is now Shefford, Bedfordshire.

In August, The Sun newspaper described Cllr Strathern as a “Greenpeace zealot” for posing as a zombie outside the Home Office in a protest against the Public Order Bill.

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According to the Daily Mail, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey has ordered a review into whether Cllr Strathern’s conduct brought the Bank’s reputation into disrepute or breached its rules on political activity.

Council leader Grace Williams thanked Cllr Strathern for his “dedication” to residents and wished him success in the upcoming by-election.

She added: “During his time as 15-Minute Neighbourhood lead, and previously as portfolio holder for children and young people, Alistair has shown great leadership and I fully understand why he now wants to stand down to fully dedicate his time to this important by-election.”

A by-election in Higham Hill will be held if two Higham Hill residents write to the council to request one.

In the 2022 local elections, Labour won all three seats in the Highams Hill ward.

Cllr Strathern won 1,673 votes, the Green Party’s Louise Ashcroft won 662 and Liberal Democrat Leticia Gil Martinez won 316.

Cllr Strathern said: “Public service matters to me. I’ve always given back to my local community, whether that’s here in Bedfordshire or wherever my work has taken me.

“It’s why I’ve pledged to be the hard-working, full-time MP that Mid Bedfordshire deserves.

“For the first two months of the campaign, we didn’t have confirmation that the by-election was happening, and I continued to work hard on behalf of the residents in my ward – hosting community meetings, supporting residents with casework, and helping some fantastic voluntary groups get access to funding. All the things we’ve been lacking an MP doing in Mid Beds.

“After being taken for granted by the Conservatives, people here in Mid Beds deserve an MP who will fight for more doctors and dentists, tackle antisocial behaviour, and support our communities through the Conservative cost of living crisis.

“I am committed to being the hard-working, full-time MP that Mid Beds deserves. I’m delighted that the campaign has officially got started and I’m all in for Mid Beds.”

Update: This article was updated to include comment from Cllr Strathern

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