Lewisham MP Heidi Alexander quits to become London deputy mayor

Lewisham MP Heidi Alexander to take the role of Deputy Mayor of London.

Lewisham MP Heidi Alexander to take the role of London deputy mayor      Pic: Wikimedia Commons

Lewisham MP Heidi Alexander is quitting the Commons to accept the role of Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for transport.

Alexander is the latest centrist Labour MP to leave Parliament for a different post, highlighting the divisions in the party.

The MP, co-chair of the Labour Campaign for the Single Market since her departure from the shadow cabinet, has represented Lewisham East since 2010.

The move to become the Mayor’s Deputy for Transport was confirmed by City Hall today. City Hall said it was not legally possible for Alexander to be both deputy mayor and MP, so she would have to leave parliament before taking up the new post.

Alexander’s departure will evoke a summer by-election for her seat, which is likely to happen in late June.

The south London seat, which Alexander won at the 2017 general election with a majority of 21,123 votes (44.8%) has been held by Labour since 1997.

Alexander served as Deputy Mayor of Lewisham and Cabinet Member overseeing regeneration schemes from 2006. She was selected as the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham East in October 2009 and was elected in 2010.

Alexander was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Health in 2015 right after Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour Leader. On 26 June 2016, she became the first of many Shadow Cabinet ministers to resign in protest at Corbyn’s leadership following the EU referendum result and sacking of Hilary Benn.

Alexander said: “I hated being part of something so inept, so unprofessional, so shoddy. This wasn’t what I had gone into politics to do. It was a joke.” She also took the role of Khan’s campaign chair during the 2016 mayoral election.

Commenting on her new role, Mayor Khan said: “Heidi knows this city inside out, and her work both as shadow health secretary and campaigning over the best Brexit deal has demonstrated the terrific job she will do as part of my team standing up for London.

“Heidi is respected across the political divide as a parliamentarian and campaigner and Londoners can be confident she will ensure we deliver our ambitious plans to transform London’s transport network over the coming years.”

Alexander is replacing Val Shawcross, who is retiring as deputy mayor for transport this summer after 18 years at the Greater London Authority.

Alexander said: “London is a fantastic city. I know Sadiq wants its transport system to be the envy of the world and I am looking forward to playing my part in making that happen.”

Corbyn also commented on her quitting. He said: “I would like to thank Heidi Alexander for her service to the people of Lewisham as their MP for the past eight years, and for her work as shadow health secretary.

“I wish Heidi well in her new role as deputy mayor for London in Sadiq Khan’s team, where I know she will put her talents and knowledge to great use for the people of London.”

Labour’s NEC will be in charge of the shortlisting process for the Lewisham East candidates. According to Guardian’s Jessica Englot, there are some names being talked about by Labour sources to replace Alexander: Lewisham councillor Sakina Sheikh, NEC member Claudia Webbe, GMB’s Nadine Houghton and ex-MP Katy Clark. Councillors Joe Dromey and Kevin Bonavia are also said to step in.

This morning Sakina Sheikh formally announced her wish to be a Lewisham East candidate; having been elected as a Lewisham councillor just a week ago.

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