Lib Dems win Grell council seat

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Liberal Democrats have won a seat on the London Borough of Waltham Forest council vacated by a Labour politician convicted of smearing one of her gay opponents.

Winnie Smith took back the seat for the Lib Dems yesterday in a by-election in Leyton.

She won 1360 votes. Khevyn Limbajee for Labour won 695.

Lib Dem group leader Keith Rayner told the East London and West Essex Guardian:

“I think Winnie would like to say that she is very pleased to be the third member for the Liberal Democrats in this ward.

“A lot of people were interested in seeing justice for Leyton, and in electing Winnie Smith they have ensured that.”

In September former councillor Miranda Grell, 29, was barred from public office for three years, fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 costs by Waltham Forest Magistrates Court.

Ms Grell won the formerly safe Lib Dem seat now represented by Ms Smith in the May 2006 elections.

Her Liberal Democrat opponent Barry Smith saw his majority of 600 overturned by Ms Grell, who took the Leyton ward council seat with a majority of 28.

In September she was found guilty after a three-day trial of two charges of “making a false statement of fact about Mr Smith’s personal character or conduct,” contrary to election law.

In December at Snaresbrook Crown Court her appeal against her conviction was unsuccessful.

Ms Grell’s Labour running mate in the council elections, Nicholas Russell, gave evidence at Waltham Forest Magistrates Court that Ms Grell’s attitude was “disgusting.”

He testified that he had heard her tell voters that Mr Smith had a 14-year-old Thai boyfriend.

Mr Smith is in a long-term relationship with a 39-year-old Malaysian man.

He testified that he suffered verbal abuse accusing him of paedophilia and had to leave his home because of threats to his safety.

The LGBT socialist society in the Labour party was heavily critical of the support she received after her conviction.

The legal costs for her failed appeal were to be covered by the national Labour party.

However, during the appeal the party withdrew its support.

Liberal Democrat London Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick, who recently visited the borough, said:

“It is a fantastic victory for Winnie who has run a great campaign in Leyton, and I look forward to working closely with her after the election on May 1st.

“Leyton has had its share of tragedy over the past few months, with three teenagers stabbed in Leyton.

“I pledge to work closely with the police and Waltham Forest council to make sure that crime in Leyton will fall.”