My friend Neil Williams is stepping down after four and a half years as Leader of the Liberal Democrat Council Group in Haringey. With taking control of Haringey Council at the next local elections the ambition and likely result – Neil reckons the next leader will not only need to get feet under table in good time – but must also be willing to commit to the long term after winning. And saint that Neil is – another decade as leader is too much to ask.
Neil and I go way back here in Hornsey & Wood Green. We have worked together on many campaigns – such as for the 603 bus route (pictured). He has been my election agent forever (and hopefully will continue to be such). He has been not only key in building our success here in Haringey, but himself was first elected to Haringey Council in Highgate in May 2002, where a big swing wiped the small Tory opposition off the political map in Haringey.
He took on the leadership of the Liberal Democrat group in January 2004, leading a group of 15 Liberal Democrat councillors. Since then, the party has gone from strength to strength. The Lib Dems have won four landslide local by-elections, and taken seat after seat from Labour in the council elections in 2006.
Oh, and along the way he was also agent for my own election as MP for Hornsey and Wood Green!
Neil has been a brilliant leader of our Council Group. It’s not just that he is talented in the chamber – which he is. It’s not just that he has guided our Liberal Democrat group from 15 to 26 members ready to take the council next time – which he has. It’s not just that he has a sharp political brain – which he does. It’s that he is a really great person and has been a friend and trooper for over ten years and co-author of the rise of the Liberal Democrats in Haringey. I’ve no doubt that whatever role he takes on next Neil will be brilliant again.