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A red letter day for Labour as Tories sink in Harrow

AFTER months of campaigning for Harrow West and Harrow East - Labour trying to hold on to their MPs, the Tories gunning hard - and a plethora of ministers making press-pleasing visits, the local council elections were forced out of the limelight.

But as the dust settled on the Conservatives' seizure of Harrow East and Labour's victory in Harrow West, the prospect of changes on Harrow Council came into sharp focus and tensions began to mount.

The Conservatives are proud of their record after four years in power, and were riding high as they arrived at Byron Hall on Thursday night for the start of the marathon vote count.

However, the first signs of what was to come emerged early on Friday morning as the General Election count offered a glimpse of how residents had voted.

Rumours began to circulate that Mayor of Harrow Eric Silver was concerned he could lose his seat.

More speculation followed that outspoken councillor Jeremy Zeid could also fall, although this would be less of a shock given that he won last time out by just six votes.

The defeat of Rachel Joyce in Harrow West put a dent in the Tory confidence, and when the council candidates and supporters returned a few hours later, it was clear the result was expected to be close.

However, neither Labour or Conservatives were prepared for what came, as Conservative seats fell in Greenhill, Rayners Lane, Headstone North, Queensbury, and even on Harrow-on-the-Hill.

Former Tory Eileen Kinnear had split the Conservative vote on the Hill, propelling two Labour candidates into the council.

And Labour claimed a victory over town centre policy as Greenhill - traditionally held by the ruling party - swung wholesale away from the Conservatives.

Labour was swept into power – leader Bill Stephenson confessed even he was “shell shocked” by the result – finally taking all three seats in West Harrow just after 6pm, booting out former Tory cabinet member Anjana Patel.

Former councillor Zeid and Silver had indeed been defeated, the latter pushed off the council at the end of his term as mayor by the hotly tipped independent James Bond.

Jubilant but jaded Labour activists left the building as the sun dropped from the sky on Friday evening, buoyed by an unexpected victory and the prospect of four years in power.

Conservatives blamed the large turnout for yesterday's results, and Councillor Susan Hall will spend the weekend reflecting on going from preparing to take over the council to leader of the opposition.

It remains to be seen whether Labour will put its money where its mouth is and follow through on scrapping some of the more controversial Tory policies.

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