Greenwich councillor Lauren Dingsdale has put herself forward to be Labour’s candidate in Beckenham & Penge at the next general election – going up against the son of “partygate” report author Sue Gray.
Dingsdale put her name forward on social media yesterday morning, less than 18 months after she topped the poll in the Eltham Town & Avery Hill ward. The solicitor’s win marked a major victory for Labour as she ousted the opposition leader, Nigel Fletcher – something she highlighted in her pitch to local party members.
“Last year, I made history by being elected in a safe Tory ward in the neighbouring borough of Greenwich,” she said. “I know how to beat Tories here in southeast London.”
Beckenham & Penge is a new seat, stretching from Crystal Palace Park to West Wickham and part of Bromley town centre.
While the old Beckenham constituency – currently represented by Sir Bob Stewart – was a safe bet for the Tories, the inclusion of Labour-leaning areas such as Penge and Anerley means it could swing towards Sir Keir Starmer’s party.
In Greenwich, Dingsdale chairs the regeneration, transport and culture scrutiny panel. She quickly won plaudits after leading the panel’s grilling of Southeastern boss Steve White after the Conservative government cut SE London’s train services.
Similar cuts have hit Southern train services through Penge and Anerley – with Transport for London even considering running Overground trains to London Bridge to take the pressure off its own services.
Other candidates to put their hat in the ring include Liam Conlon, who is the son of Sue Gray, the former civil servant who wrote the report into Boris Johnson’s illegal lockdown parties in Downing Street and is now Starmer’s chief of staff. Marina Ahmad, a London Assembly member and former Bromley councillor who contested the old Beckenham seat three times, is also running.
This is not Dingsdale’s first run for parliament – she stood in her native north-east in 2019, coming second in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.
There, it emerged she has a family surname linked to Belgian royalty, as she appeared on official papers as “Lauren Louise De Thibault de Boesinghe (commonly known as Lauren Dingsdale)”.
“I got married in June, that’s where it comes from,” she told The Gazette, the local paper in Middlesbrough, at the time.
“But I’m still using my old name, Dingsdale, in my professional life – it’s the name I got all my qualifications under and it’s the name I’ve established my reputation under.
“Besides that, De Thibault de Boesinghe is too difficult to pronounce.”
Before politics, her most notable achievement was winning £10,000 on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire as a student in an episode broadcast in 2010.
She walked away with the money after deciding not to risk her winnings on trying to work out which musical the song Do You Hear the People Sing? came from.