Lewisham’s elected mayor Damien Egan is to stay in his post for now, even though he has been picked as a general election candidate in his home city of Bristol.
Egan, who has led Lewisham Council since 2018, will stand to be the MP for Bristol North East after being picked by Labour Party members at the weekend.
He had been working on reduced hours since starting his campaign in June and had donated his allowance as mayor to Lewisham Foodbank, with deputy mayor Brenda Dacres picking up many of his duties.
News of his success in Bristol led to calls for him to stand down immediately in Lewisham. But Egan, who was brought up in Bristol, said last night that he would stay in his £80,000-per year role for the time being and stand down before the next general election, which may not be until as late as January 2025.
“It’s a huge honour to have been chosen to be Labour’s parliamentary candidate for my home town of Bristol. This doesn’t take away from my dedication or affection for the people of Lewisham, where I served as a councillor for eight years, before being the directly-elected mayor for the last five years. This is a truly special place for me and always will be.
“It is my intention to stand down as mayor ahead of a general election and I’m sure the Labour Party will begin a process to select a mayoral candidate in due course. Until that point I will, of course, continue to work hard to deliver the very best for the people of Lewisham,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Egan became a councillor for Lewisham Central in 2010 and has been the elected mayor – equivalent to a council leader in other boroughs – of Lewisham since 2018.
In May last year he was elected mayor on 58 per cent of the vote, with Green candidate Nick Humberstone a distant second on 16 per cent. Conservative candidate Caroline Attfield was third with just 12 per cent. Labour hold every seat on Lewisham Council, with other party represented.
Kieran Terry, the Conservative candidate for Greenwich & Lewisham in next year’s London Assembly election, said yesterday that Egan “cannot represent Lewisham properly from 120 miles away. He needs to make a decision whether his future is in Bristol or Lewisham. If he chooses Bristol he must resign so Lewisham residents get a mayor who is dedicated and focused entirely on them and not on being an MP for a completely different part of the country.”
The Liberal Democrats, whose candidate Chris Maines came fourth in the mayoral poll with 10 per cent, said on social media that Egan needed to “set out how he intends to serve Lewisham residents in the months ahead”.
Egan’s decision to stay on for now may well have been influenced by the cost of holding a borough-wide by-election, which would cost Lewisham Council tens of thousands of pounds.
Lewisham Labour is likely to want time to find a candidate for one of the party’s safest strongholds in the capital.
Last month it was reported that Rishi Sunak was considering holding the next election in November 2024. But Egan could also choose to resign just before the London mayoral election, which will take place in May next year, which would save some of the costs of holding the by-election. That is also a possible date for a general election.
Egan is not the only Lewisham politician standing elsewhere in the general election: Blackheath councillor and cabinet member Juliet Campbell, who is the cabinet member for communities, will contest the seat of Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire earlier this year.
One of Egan’s former colleagues in SE London, the ex-Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander, was picked to be the candidate for South Swindon last year, but Greenwich councillor Chris Lloyd pulled out of the race for North Swindon after also being picked. Kevin Bonavia, a former Blackheath councillor and cabinet member in Lewisham, is standing in Stevenage.
This story uses material from Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter