A FORMER supermarket worker who lived in a Staple Hill council flat as a teenager is now the front-runner to be the MP for his old neighbourhood.
Damien Egan, who is currently the elected mayor of Lewisham in London, beat Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees and South Gloucestershire Council cabinet member Leigh Ingham to be selected as Labour’s candidate for the new Bristol North East parliamentary constituency, which is due to be contested for the first time at the next general election after boundary changes.
Damien, aged 40, won an outright majority in the first round of voting by Labour Party members at a “nerve-racking” selection meeting at the end of July.
The new constituency is being created from parts of the current Bristol East seat held by Labour, and the Kingswood and Filton & Bradley Stoke seats, held by the Conservatives.
It will include the South Gloucestershire Council wards of Staple Hill & Mangotsfield, New Cheltenham, Kingswood and Woodstock, which are represented entirely by Labour councillors, and the Bristol City Council wards of Eastville, Frome Vale, Hillfields and Lockleaze, where the party currently holds four out of eight seats.
However Damien refuses to be complacent about his chances of victory and says he is “looking forward to getting out on doorsteps and meeting residents and community groups over the next year”.
Damien’s term of office as Lewisham Mayor does not expire until 2026 but he intends to stand down from the job at some point before the election.
He has already started looking for somewhere to live in the new constituency, and says it has given him personal experience of the “terrifying” problems facing people looking to rent a home here.
Another issue he has also experienced, as a non-driver, is the shortcomings of the area’s public transport.
As a child Damien lived in Fairford Close, Kingswood, before he, his mum and sister became homeless and were “bounced” around temporary accommodation in Downend, Fishponds and St George before settling in a council flat at Berkeley House, Staple Hill.
His first job was at Downend’s Somerfield supermarket, now the Co-op, and he was a Downend and Bromley Heath parish councillor from 2003-7 before moving to London, where he became a councillor in 2010 and Lewisham Mayor in 2018.
Damien said: “I feel very honoured and proud that members of the Labour Party heard me out and have given me this opportunity to be able to potentially represent, in Parliament, the area I grew up in.
“I want to do as good a job for our area as I can and, if I am elected as an MP, I want to be able to look back on my time and think that I’ve made a difference.”