LONDON Britain's Labour party has won five seats at elections in the City of London, the heart of the country's financial district, as it seeks to challenge the borough's centuries-old policy of independence from party politics.
Britain's main opposition party, lagging far behind the Conservatives in national opinion under its current leader, veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, has had its best ballot box result in the City ever, after fielding eight candidates for the lower house of the local authority's two-chamber council.
Labour began contesting the City's elections after the onset of the global financial crisis. The party failed to take any seats in 2009 or four years later, but won its first seat in a by-election three years ago.
It is now expected to try to form an official opposition in the City's local government for the first time.
The party wants to use more of the City's wealth to spend on areas such as social housing and tackling air pollution rather than promoting financial services.
"I'm very proud to have played my part in a great victory for Labour in the City," Richard Crossan, a public relations consultant and Barbican resident said after being elected unopposed in Aldersgate Ward for the Labour Party.
"For the small but spirited Labour Party here in the Square Mile, this is a very special day indeed."
The City of London, is the oldest, continuous representative local government in the world, running the area that is home to the Bank of England and St Paul's Cathedral for at least a thousand years.
It is also very rich, unlike most conventional British councils which are struggling to make ends meet following deep cuts in funding from the Conservative-ruled central government.
The City wants to fend off the entry of party politics, arguing that it will make it harder to make long-term decisions in the interests of Europe's biggest financial services hub.
"There is little appetite for introducing party politics into the City of London Corporation," said Brian Mooney, a former Reuters journalist, who was re-elected councillor for the ward of Queenhithe, which he has represented since 1998.
"There is scant support in the Square Mile for Jeremy Corbyn and his followers. There is no enthusiasm in a predominantly pro-business ward, such as Queenhithe, for idealistic but old fashioned cooperative socialism."
(Reporting By Anjuli Davies; Editing by Rachel Armstrong)