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New measures to stop protestors targeting women outside Lambeth’s abortion clinics are on hold, the council has finally admitted, despite responses to a consultation being “overwhelmingly in favour” of the measures.
For years, women and girls using the Marie Stopes Clinic on Brixton Hill and the BPAS on Leigham Court Road, Streatham, have been subjected to the views of anti-abortion groups protesting directly outside the entrance to the clinics.
The protestors hand out leaflets with misleading information about abortion, and hold up graphic posters, aiming to dissuade women from using the clinics’ services. These activities violate women’s privacy as they enter the clinics and cause unnecessary additional distress at a time of high vulnerability.
In February 2018, Lambeth Council consulted on the possibility of bringing in a Public Space Protection Order to create a buffer zone that would mean women could enter the clinics without being approached by protestors or having to walk past distressing images.
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It was a tense atmosphere at the count at Lambeth Town Hall on Thursday night, as we waited for the result of Thornton ward’s second by-election this year. After a hard-fought campaign, the Liberal Democrat candidate Matthew Bryant fell just 19 votes short of beating Labour this time.
Although we didn’t quite make it over the line, the 32% increase in the Lib Dem vote share since May 2018 shows that voters are increasingly choosing outward-looking, tolerant, pro-EU politics over the extremism and intransigence of the Conservatives and Labour.
The tight result also sends a strong message that Labour cannot take residents in our area for granted. Their refusal to listen to residents’ concerns – whether they be over the proposed closure of the local Weir Link Children’s Centre or poor maintenance on our estates – is unacceptable and the Liberal Democrats will continue to challenge Labour’s approach.
You can also read Lewis Baston for OnLondon's coverage of the by-election. "The result was a real squeaker. Labour’s majority, in a ward that looked rock-solid a year ago, was slashed to 19 votes," Baston writes. "The swing from Labour to Lib Dem is 5.6 per cent since February and a massive 27 per cent since May 2018.
"While the scale of the movement owes a lot to campaigning effort that cannot be replicated everywhere, Labour would be unwise to ignore the result. The two Thornton ward elections, and indeed the defection of the local MP, suggest that the party cannot take the liberal middle classes and the multicultural municipal estates that make up its London core vote for granted."