Ardent Millwall fan, Willow Winston, has announced she will be fighting as an independent candidate for the Lewisham East seat on June 8.
The 72-year-old artist is being backed by the Association of Millwall Supporters (AMS), who are fighting to keep the club in Lewisham and have a vested interest in local voices being heard.
A local resident, Winston will be standing as a pro-Millwall candidate for the seat currently occupied by Labour’s Heidi Alexander. Winston has spoken of her reasons to stand, citing her commitment to supporting the community and the fans of Millwall FC.
Speaking to Southwark News, she said: “I agreed to do it because I really feel there’s a whole community here that needs to be defended and that needs to be taken into consideration as human beings – as people who can’t just be pushed around and pushed out by so-called gentrification… The good that Millwall does for the community is irreplaceable.”
Winston has previously been vocal at council meetings alongside AMS, particularly when the council sought to allow the compulsory purchase of land around Millwall stadium to sell to property developer Renewal.
AMS spoke to Eastlondonlines, explaining their decision to back Winston: “This decision has been taken to give a voice to the small person and for that voice to be heard in the wider political arena. This fight will be fought on fairness, honesty and integrity.
“Willow Winston is honest, well versed in community activities and above all, extremely disappointed with individuals not having a voice against the mighty powers of local developers and local councils in their continued proactive practices of social cleansing.
“We have felt for a long time that inner city communities are being forced to move out of their homes at alarming rates. These residents have grown up in areas that are now becoming unattainable to live in any more due to a lack of rented and/or affordable housing.
“The continued gentrification of areas in cities all over the United Kingdom is, we feel, potentially destroying generations of local communities in the name of developer led profiteering.
“The AMS believes that it’s time to drain the swamp, it’s time the public starts to fight back against said commercial organisations and realise that these are our areas, these are our homes and playing fields that are being sold from underneath us.”
Speaking to Eastlondonlines, Alexander – the current MP for Lewisham East – said: “It is something of a surprise to have a candidate running on this issue in Lewisham East. The Club is located in the neighbouring constituency of Lewisham Deptford and as the MP for Lewisham East over the last seven years I have had hardly any contact with the council about the plans, and very few people who live in my constituency have been in touch with me about it…
“It goes without saying that I believe Millwall FC’s future belongs in the borough of Lewisham and I do not want to see the Club moving from its current location.
“As a former Cabinet Member for Regeneration at Lewisham Council (2006-10), I know that when the developer, Renewal, were in the early stages of buying land in the vicinity of the stadium, Lewisham Council met Millwall FC to advise them of the possibility of a comprehensive planning application being submitted.
“During my time as a Councillor, I was committed to finding a way forward which would be agreeable to all parties involved – Renewal, Millwall and the council. It is my recollection that the Club indicated they might wish to bring forward its own regeneration proposals. The council were open to this suggestion and it was made clear that pre-application discussions would be welcomed. I know the Club met with senior council officers but a planning application was never submitted.”
Alexander went on to conclude that her role as Cabinet Member for Regeneration ended in 2010 and has had no involvement with the issue, though she hopes that a way forward can be found that is “agreeable to all parties”, reaffirming the future of Millwall FC at the New Den and allowing regeneration of the wider area.
Millwall are currently preparing for the play-off final at Wembley Stadium for the second year in a row after a 3-2 victory against Scunthorpe United last Sunday (May 7).