‘We’ve only gone and won it’ Tory safe seat goes to the Lib Dems
Despite protestations that no-one was bothered about ‘partygate’ the local Conservatives lose a safe seat on the North Northamptonshire unitary
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By Sarah Ward
The first Liberal Democrat has been voted onto Northamptonshire’s north unitary council, causing an upset by taking a Conservative safe seat.
Local man Charlie Best was elected with a majority of 260 votes yesterday morning.
The by-election had been called following the resignation of Annabel De Capell Brooke, who stood down after NN Journal exclusively revealed the absent councillor had moved to Norfolk and was claiming thousands for chairing a committee she had never convened.
The result will not have a major impact on the council, as the Conservatives have a massive majority, but is perhaps a better indicator of the overall mood of voter feeling about the Tory party and the fallout of Boris Johnson’s leadership.
All three major political parties campaigned hard in the area with Conservative MPs Tom Pursglove and Peter Bone out canvassing in the area for several weekends before polling day. Bone also appeared on national TV a number of times claiming no-one in the area was bothered about Boris’s party activities during lockdown.
With a 35 per cent turnout, 3577 residents voted and Charlie Best took 47 per cent of the vote with 1683 votes. There was a 13 per cent swing from Conservative to Lib Dem.
The Conservative candidate, Ollie Curtis, who lives in Raunds, won 1423 votes, Labour’s Harry James polled 337, in his third election attempt and Green Kate Jones had 124.
Speaking after his election, retired engineer Charlie Best said:
“We’ve only gone and won it. Following last May’s defeat you don’t let yourself get too hopeful.
“Putting up a candidate who does not live in the ward was the thing that did it for the Tories.”
“Asked if he will have a better meeting attendance record than his predecessor, he said: “I shall certainly aim to. In terms of my priorities I don't know what I will be able to influence in a council that is so Tory dominant but I will be keen to hear from residents.
“The whole point here is that I’m not a politician, I just want to represent the people in my community.”
To hear more of Charlie’s priorities you can catch up with the election hustings we hosted last week.
Leader of the unitary council Jason Smithers was at the election count and was in sombre mood after his party’s defeat.
“It is a clear message from the electorate that they expect more. It was always going to be difficult.”
He said he thought the loss was a result of both national and local factors. Nationally the Conservatives are going through their worst period of their government following a series of scandals. And locally they were dealt a big blow after deciding to settle a legal claim with wronged publican Geoff Monks in December, who was suing the council for the past actions of predecessor council East Northants who wrongly prosecuted him for food safety breaches which ended up ruining his livelihood and his health.
“We have to listen to that message and people in North Northamptonshire to consider the Conservatives are still capable of running this area,” he said. “It is a challenging time because some of the things that are happening nationally.”
He said a positive was the large majority the Conservatives still currently enjoy on the unitary council.
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