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‘It’s time to move on’: Former Ilford MP Mike Gapes thanks constituents for 27 years of support

PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 December 2019

Mike Gapes was MP for Ilford South for 27 years. Picture: Ken Mears

Mike Gapes was MP for Ilford South for 27 years. Picture: Ken Mears

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After losing his seat last week, Ilford’s longest-serving MP said he has no regrets and thanked his constituents for letting him represent them for 27 years.

Mike Gapes was elected in 1992 with a majority of 402 votes and in the 2017 election, he was elected with a majority of 31,647.

But in February this year, Mr Gapes and several other MPs quit the Labour Party in protest against Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and last Thursday, he lost his Ilford South seat to the Labour Party's Sam Tarry.

"It's time to move on," he told the Recorder. "I knew I wouldn't win, but it was important to stand and make my view clear.

"I fought the campaign, got the Labour Party worried and I got a respectable amount of votes.

"I never had any illusions I would win but it was important for me to stand and make a statement.

"It was a big thing for me to leave the Labour Party after 50 years, but I have no regrets.

"I couldn't stand saying I would want Corbyn as a prime minister. I decided to stand and fight, knowing I would lose."

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Despite losing his seat, Mr Gapes, 67, who has won seven elections, thanked his constituents in Ilford for the "thousands of warm conversations" during his campaign.

He said he has no plans for the future just yet, but lots of ideas.

"I've got to do the difficult thing of closing my office and making my staff redundant," he said. "That's a difficult process.

"I've got no plans yet, but I know I'm going to have a break."

Highlights of Mr Gapes' political career include his part in the Good Friday Agreement, his time as chairman of the foreign affairs committee and the tens of thousands of people in his constituency who he has helped over the years.

"Leading the campaign to save King George Hospital is a highlight," he said. "It took us 13 years and I got the final confirmation in July this year," he said. "That's a major victory for everybody locally. I started the first petition in 2006.

"It's a great honour to represent this fantastic community."

Mr Gapes thanked his agent, Jack Baldan, and "all the people who helped and worked for me over the years".

"Above all, I'd like to thank the people of Ilford for letting me represent them," he said. "I was very privileged to be an MP."

After 27 years in politics, Mr Gapes said he is going to take a break and spend more time watching football and visiting art galleries before he plots his next career move.


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