Harlow District Council election of 2024: A personal reflection

News / Mon 6th May 2024 at 11:35am

WE thought we would reflect on the Harlow District Council elections of 2024.

We did suspect that it would come down to Latton Bush and Stewards and we were right in that regard.

We thought Labour would have three councillors there. Well we were wrong. They got one but the Conservatives took two.

That brings us to 17-16. For now. We will see what the investigation into James Leppard brings.

If there is a by-election in Church Langley South and Potter Street, then the Tories will be confident of winning. There was a 242 vote difference in that ward between Cons and Labour on Thursday.

If it does remain 17-16 then it is going to be a tough two years in the council chamber.

We anticipate a lot of “war of words”, “stormy meetings”, “councillors clash” etc. That might be good for journalism but may not be good for the town.

The Tories will have to do their best to ensure full attendance. That has been a problem over last two years (and we don’t mean Steve LeMay/Nick Churchill).

The Conservatives

A victorious night for the Conservatives. The bottom line is they retained control of the council. It was a huge fillip for 23-year-old Dan Swords, who gained a national profile with one political commentator declaring “A Star is Born”.

Dan is mature enough to know that it is a fickle game and will have a measured approach to the challenge ahead.

Was he a factor? Was Dan the man? Anecdotally. Yes. We do know Labour supporters who said: “We couldn’t vote for them nationally but that young Dan is doing a good job”.

We know council officers speak very highly of him.

He now has a great opportunity to make good on the promises regarding the town centre. The Strawberry Star part, Terminus House and the rest.

He will need to think carefully about his team. There is too much talent on that back bench. Sometimes, Dan looks like a very talented player manager who has three of his best players on the bench.

However there is also the new talent in Emma Ghaffari, Danielle Brown and Hannah Ellis.

And let us not forget. They were 21 and are now 17.


Labour got 21,928 votes compared to the Conservatives poll of 21,897. That won’t be much compensation.

They have reduced a 21-12 gap to a 17-16.

They worked so so hard and so it is no wonder that they feel very disappointed.

But with rest, recuperation and a new leader they will go into the next two years with a positive approach.

They won inner Harlow: Bush Fair, Little Parndon, Mark Hall, Netteswell and Passmores.

In Latton Bush and Stewards, newcomer Luke Howard came top with 890 votes. Yes, it does seem strange that he polled 890 and the other two Labour candidates polled 805 and 781 but that may simply be that 109 people didn’t tick all three boxes.

They now have James Griggs as leader, who has transformed them into a very disciplined and focussed group.

However, when it comes to challenging the Tories at meetings, they will need to look on top of their game. Recently, they have looked a shambles.

As for Chris Vince. Walking out was not a great look. Yes, there must have been immense pressure especially with the visit of Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner. An event at which Chris Vince, shoulder to shoulder with his two leaders, spoke very well.

His decision to got home will raise serious questions as to whether he has the temperament to be an MP for Harlow. As one observer said: “The first sign of pressure and he ran for the hills”.

It was noted that as he walked out of the Harlow Leisurezone, he went past the kitchens.

However, Chris and Labour will need to hold their nerve.

There was a lot of people voting Conservative on Thursday night that may not vote Conservative in the General Election. They may vote Reform. They may stay at home.

You get the feeling that the Reform Party candidate, Malcolm Featherstone, could sit at home in Hatfield Heath and still make a sizeable dent in the Tory vote.

That could be enough to let Chris Vince in on the rails.

More on that to come.

The Greens

The Greens have been a breath of fresh air in the Harlow political scene. Over 4,300 people voted for them and they have to be buoyed by that.

They didn’t win any seats but they have become a vital cog in the political wheel of Harlow.

Yasmin Gregory was one of the best performers at the Question Time we held.

We look forward to her campaign at the General Election.

Many of their members are also active in other organisations.

We do hope they continue to attend planning, scrutiny, cabinet and council and hold the council to account.

There has to be a place for them in the democratic matrix of the town.

The Harlow Alliance Party

All of the above could be applicable to the Harlow Alliance Party (HAP). Dan Swords could be advised to bring in leader Nick Taylor and the Green’s Yasmin Gregory for a cup of tea.

HAP has become a vital part of the political framework of Harlow. We do believe that many people are inspired by them and so attend council meetings.

We are sure that over the next two years they will continue to fight. If we were them, we would see if we could grow from four to eight? Get candidates in the east. Personally, we would change our name to Harlow Residents Party. Maybe speak to the Loughton Residents Association


It is going to be a fascinating two years. Firstly we get to the annual council meeting on May 23rd. Then we have the General Election of 2024. The smart money is on November 14th 2024.

Before all that we get to the James Leppard investigation. We will have more to say in due course.

May we congratulate, all 101 candidates who put their names forward. May we praise all those who campaigned in all weathers.

Much respect to all those involved in the democratic process especially all the involved in the count. It was a long day/night/morning.

We hope our coverage has helped. We always know we must be doing the right thing if we get accused of bias.

This year it was a hat-trick! A Green Party slammed us for “biased write ups”. We say that’s Bull. Actually, the Green have a point in that we didn’t manage to interview any of them. Which is poor show.

A Conservative candidate considered going to our press regulator due to our biased coverage of Bush Fair. She then wrote the sweetest message on our comments section.

Plus Labour supporters said it was wall to wall Tory coverage. They may have missed the two interviews with Sir Keir Starmer plus MP’s Bridget Phillipson, Hilary Benn, Ellie Reeves, Steve Reed plus a number of local candidates.

It is indeed a game of opinions and we would rather have that than “They are all the same” “I don’t vote blah blah”.

We cannot ignore that 71% of the electorate did not vote.

We now look forward to the new civic year. As a journalist, it will be fascinating.

Thanks for looking in.

Editor: Michael Casey

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13 Comments for Harlow District Council election of 2024: A personal reflection:

2024-05-06 13:32:29

Great write up, and valid points. of course the key thing is 71% did not vote, perhaps it is time for a none of the above box. Though that will never happen as it is far to easy to say "I do not vote bla, They are all the same" without asking why people feel so disenfranchised or fearing a shattering of the view that there is a mandate. 29% is not a mandate. For the record I did vote, but I will be spoiling my ballot paper at the GE

Peter Henegan
2024-05-06 13:45:52

An excellent summary YH. But you missed out the most important part, something highlighted by Amelia Reynolds of the BBC (her reaction to learning that the recount would take 1.5 hours was something else), why was the leisurezone cafe not open? Was it because someone didn't arrange it with the leisurezone? I am sure the staff would have loved the double time overtime

2024-05-06 13:46:34

Interesting read and take on it all thamks for that. In my opinion it would make sense for the small parties who aren't polar opposites of each other to merge and become one party. These small parties split the vote leaving the door wide open for tory or Labour. It seems to me the time is long overdue for either scrapping the first past the post system which makes absolutely no sense to me, or , like i say the smaller parties combining efforts. There are a lot of good aspects to some of them but it is largely a wasted vote simply due to numbers. Time to put pride aside and join forces with each other ? It's currently a two horse race and if you don't feel represented by either one, people are unlikely to bother voting as it won't make any difference. And yes, I do vote. I think nome of the above does need to be included as well. I think , as has been said, that might reach those who want to vote but not for those standing for election. They deserve a voice and their voice is important and valid. I will add that I do vote

Pat Roberts
2024-05-06 13:49:05

I don’t think the General Election will be on Nov 14 - it is King Charles’ birthday!!!!

2024-05-06 13:51:55

If none of the above won't be added, they people should write it on the paper . Yes it will be a spoiled vote and won't be counted, but if it's in large numbers it's hard to ignore. We as a society are sitting back, taking it silently and that's just sad.

Stuart Crook
2024-05-06 15:25:59

I sent 3 emails to Dan Swords after the third one he answered saying he gets hundreds of emails but would answer me that was 3 weeks ago still waiting for my answer and I have always voted conservative Makes me wonder is it worth it

2024-05-06 19:30:03

28% turn out isn't any kind of mandate but a consequence of residents finding that very rarely are their wishes are reflected in what our local politicians deliver.

2024-05-06 20:37:55

If the public don't bother to come out to vote , what makes you think they would come out to put a cross by none of the above. I think there is 2 reasons .1 I have noticed a drop in voters since I.d. required. 2 a lot of people are just not interested in politics or Harlow.

View from Afar
2024-05-07 09:42:11

Two questions - has the work started on the Town Centre as Dan Swords said it would and has the situation regarding Cllr Leppard been resolved?

David Forman
2024-05-07 12:36:14

In Harlow as well as other parts of the country Labour lost a lot of the Muslim vote. They certainly lost two in the Forman household. The cocky attitude of Labour nationally and locally has not served them well, especially Chris Vince arrogantly declaring "When We Win" back in February at the full council meeting now making him look like a spent force similar to Neil Kinnock back in 1992.

Mrs Black
2024-05-07 13:08:11

Can I just ask of all of the people that have commented and talked about Chris Vince. A day or so after the election there was article about Vince walking out after the results and the following day announced that he is stepping down/leaving the Party. Was I the only one that read that? If he said he was now stepping down then why all the talk about what he needs to do in the future. Thoroughly confused now.

Waida Forman
2024-05-07 17:06:48

Mrs Blank Chris is the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Labour. He wishes to become our MP.

Martin Harvey
2024-05-08 07:41:36

Reform candidate stayed at home, but UKIP were out there and we polled a much higher %age than Reform did last year, despite our late start and the immense publicity given to Reform. UKIP is back in Town.

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