Friday, 4 May 2012

Tory blues

Robert Atwood lost his seat on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to UKIP.  In defeat he was quoted thus:

“I’m shocked but not surprised. I just feel sorry that the people of Rusthall now have two councillors they will come to regret having elected.”

There's magnanimity for you!  Nothing is gained by criticising the electorate.  Sounds more like sour grapes. 


I have not worked out why his defeat is a 'disaster' for Tunbridge Wells.  

However, there is a more important matter looming, the by-election for Kevin Lynes' Kent County Council division.  Looking at the results in the three wards which make up the division, it should be a Conservative hold.

Doubtless UKIP will be up for the contest but I cannot see them winning the seat, although they came second to the Conservatives in Sherwood with 30% of the vote.

The Liberal Democrats had a strong result in St James, a poor result in Sherwood and lost a seat in Pembury.  Labour is not in with a shout.  What will be interesting is how people who voted for the Independent in Pembury (who topped the poll in a two seat contest) use their vote at the forthcoming by-election.  Given the success of the Independent in Pembury, another Independent may chance his/her arm at the by-election.

The Conservatives will need to take care in their selection of a candidate.  Sherwood, St James and Pembury have little in common except, as Kevin Lynes understood well,  serious issues of deprivation in St James and Sherwood.  They need to find a candidate who understands community and deprivation issues and has a track record of community engagement.

Unfortunately the Local Government Committee does not inspire confidence.  After all it was this committee which re-selected the member for Capel.  

The by-election  will be held on 14th June.


  1. Actually, a lot of people in Rusthall who vote for the three main parties are unhappy at the election of a second UKIPer. The UKIP guy won by a small margin of votes having done precious little campaigning and not having offered any local policies for Rusthall to the electorate. Indeed, he doesn't even live in Rusthall - he lives in St. James. It was noticeable on election day that his vote was overwhelmingly coming from the elderly, who appeared to be motivated to vote for UKIP by anti-EU and anti-immigration sentiments - two issues that borough councillors have absolutely no say over at all. The result is that by a small margin the elderly in Rusthall have replaced a very powerful voice for the village on the borough council, namely the former leader, and someone who has done a lot for Rusthall over the past four years, with a chap who is not local, has no local policies, who has had no previous involvement in the village, who has done nothing for the village and who will be outvoted and ignored by the majority of the council for the next four years.

    Whatever next? Presumably the very vocal Mr. Webb and his compatriot will now declare Rusthall's unilateral independence from the EU?

  2. The question Conservatives must ask is why did they lose the seat in view of all the negative points about UKIP? Why were electors attracted to UKIP and not to the Conservatives? I am sure national issues played a part and I suspect the so-called 'granny tax' loomed large in the thinking of older people.

    The fact the UKIP candidate was not local obviously did not deter the electorate. After all, one of the successful Conservative candidates in Broadwater lives in Langton and the Conservative candidate in Capel lives in St John's. One Conservative councillor lives near Crowborough and another near Uckfield!

    In previous posts I have commented on the undesirability of bringing national issues into local elections, the rubbish that was the UKIP election address, etc.

    However, the Conservative lost. Time to move on and not a good idea to blame the electorate.

    UKIP secured 30% of the vote in Sherwood. That is a matter to address.

  3. Oh I agree that national issues plainly played a decisive part.

    It is not so surprising that the Conservatives lost the seat because it was never a safe Conservative seat. Historically Rusthall was a swing Lib/Lab seat. Nowadays it appears to be a swing Conservative/UKIP seat. Mr. Webb won the seat against a popular incumbent (Barry) with a large vote in 2011 so it is hardly so surprising that a year later another UKIP would win against another popular incumbent (Bob) with a less large but nevertheless significant vote.

    As for "blaming the electorate", I'm not sure anyone has done that. Don't believe everything that journalists write! They are not paragons of accuracy and often have their own axe to grind ...

  4. Historically Rusthall has been a Lib Dem/Con swing seat. Labour has won a seat in Rusthall only once: at the height of the Poll Tax furore. (Contrary to myth, Jennifer Blackburn was a Labour councillor for a Southborough ward).

    The boundary changes a few years ago resulted in the loss of the Coniston Avenue area and reduction in Rusthall seats from 3 to 2.

    Webb and other UKIP members have been contesting Rusthall for years without a sniff of success. The problem for the Conservatives was the terrible campaign and loss in 2011 which raised UKIP morale for 2012.