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Deputy leader taunts defeated rival in email rant

Vitriolic post-election email was sent from Ian Barnes’ official council email account, reports James Cracknell

The email sent by Ian Barnes to Charith Gunawardena, who was defeated in last week's election
The email sent by Ian Barnes (inset) to Charith Gunawardena, who was defeated in last week’s election

The outgoing deputy leader of Enfield Council told a defeated Green Party candidate that he was “thrilled” to learn the Southgate councillor had not been re-elected – in an email sent from his official council address.

Ian Barnes, who did not stand for re-election himself, told his former Labour colleague Charith Gunawardena that “we will spend the next four years making sure the residents of Southgate know the lies you and the Green Party told during this election”.

Southgate ward was one of the most tightly-contested wards in Enfield. Four years ago the ward was split, with one Tory and two Labour councillors winning, including Cllr Gunawardena. But like his Southgate colleague Derek Levy, Cllr Gunawardena later quit Labour. He simultaneously joined the Green Party, becoming Enfield’s first-ever Green councillor.

Cllr Barnes, who will be formally replaced as deputy leader later this month when the Labour group meets to elect its new cabinet, also told Cllr Gunawardena that he hoped an animation he had made and posted on social media, depicting the Green councillor wearing a Conservative rosette, “played some small part in your downfall” and warned him not to “bother replying” because he would “delete it before I read it”.

The email from Cllr Barnes was sent at 8.14am on Sunday morning, two days after the local election results were announced, with the Conservatives having won all three seats up for grabs in Southgate. Cllr Gunawardena finished sixth in the contest, behind Labour candidates Harry Redmond and Christine Hamilton – a former mayor of Enfield – but ahead of Labour’s third candidate Gary Ogin.

The Conservatives were also victorious in Winchmore Hill, the ward Cllr Barnes represented between 2018 and this year’s election. In total across all 25 Enfield wards, Labour lost eight seats.

Cllr Barnes’ animosity towards his former Labour colleague stems from the latter’s opposition to the council’s Fox Lane low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) scheme, which Cllr Gunawardena attempted to prevent being made permanent earlier this year because of what he described as the LTN’s “disproportionate negative impact on people with protected characteristics”.


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But while the Conservatives had sought to capitalise on local anger over the Fox Lane LTN in its local election campaign, by promising to rip it out if they won control of the council, the Greens did not explicitly mention the scheme in its manifesto and said only that Green councillors would “push for solutions to reduce congestion at Southgate Circus and through traffic in residential streets” while promising to “scrutinise” the council’s approach on the issue.

One specific policy the Conservatives and Greens did have in common was their opposition to the Labour-run council’s plans to build thousands of homes on the borough’s Green Belt.

Asked by the Dispatch to explain what motivated him to send his post-election email, Cllr Barnes admitted that it was “coloured by anger and relief” and that it was “not gracious”. However, he said the comments made in the email about Cllr Gunawardena “remain my personal opinion and I stand by it”.

Cllr Barnes said of the email: “I should probably have waited until I was officially an ex-councillor, but anyone thinking it was written ‘in haste and repented at leisure’ would be wrong.

“My anger and disgust concerning Charith’s hypocrisy is genuine, as I state this is a man who resides in a cul-de-sac while fighting to remove from others the benefits he experiences of increased safety and reduced pollution.”

The outgoing deputy leader added: “For the past couple of years I have been subjected to verbal and written abuse, death threats and online doxxing – crude attempts to prevent me from fulfilling Enfield Labour’s aims to make our streets cleaner and safer. The threats upset me and my family, but I am proud of what I have accomplished with the support of many others. I look forward to watching this new administration take forward Labour’s plans to make Enfield the greenest borough in London.

After Cllr Barnes’s email was revealed on social media, Joanne Laban, the Conservative group leader, said on Twitter: “Ian Barnes chose to do this as one of his last actions as a councillor. In my opinion this is just one of many examples of why he should never have held office.”

Cllr Gunawardena declined to comment.


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