Labour vote decimated as Conservatives sweep into power

Labour vote decimated as Conservatives sweep into power

By Chris Osbourne

On Thursday night the Conservative party took control of North East Lincolnshire council, bucking the national trend of huge losses. Across the country there was a wave of protest against Theresa May’s government. In North East Lincolnshire there was a complete reversal of this trend, which saw Philip Jackson’s Conservative group gain five council seats to wrest control from the Labour/Lib Dem groups.

In truth, neither side was particularly confident as the counting began at the Auditorium shortly after 11pm. The Tories were the most optimistic as they thought they might make a couple of gains, but neither they or the other parties foresaw the mass exodus of votes from Labour. The first result of the night to be declared was the Conservative victory in the marginal Freshney ward. Conservative candidate Tom Furnaeux won a victory over Labour’s much fancied Sheldon Mill. The tone was set for the evening.

As counting got underway in the wards there were some worried faces among the Labour contingent, who saw that their vote had dwindled. Rumours started to make their way around the hall that some senior Labour figures were in trouble. The Lib Dem’s Terry Walker took the East Marsh seat. It was only a few months ago that he was a Labour councillor. After an internal dispute he had upped and left for the Lib Dems taking the seat with him. On Thursday he thumbed his nose at Labour by retaining it for a further 4 years.

The rumour mill was working overtime as word spread through the hall that Labour cabinet leader Peter Wheatley was in trouble in the Yarborough ward and this was soon confirmed as the result was announced and he had been well beaten by Conservative candidate Gary Abel. While the seat was won by the Tories, it was clear that the coup de grace had been administered by the Socialist Alternative candidate Kieran Barlow. A lot of Labour voters in Yarborough were still angry at the chicanery in last year’s election when Labour failed to disclose to the public that they had suspended their candidate Matthew Brown until after the postal votes had been cast. On Thursday night Labour voters turned to Barlow in their droves. He had campaigned ceaselessly through the ward and gained 421 votes to Wheatley’s 622. This split let Abel in and Wheatley was gone.

It wasn’t all bad news for Labour as Karl Wilson, Janet Goodwin and Matthew Patrick  held onto their seats in the face of the Tory tsunami. They gained Sidney Sussex which had been left vacant by the retirement of outgoing Mayor Hazel Chase. Marie Green was one of many new faces up for election and she took the seat for Labour.  Bob Callison won the fight for Croft Baker by a comfortable margin. A local man, he had been left an open field by Labour’s non campaigning in a ward where Labour needed to reassure their voters after the distasteful Brown affair. They didn’t and a strong Labour ward now has 2 Conservative councillors, the single remaining Labour councillor would be forgiven for looking forward to her defence next year with a furrowed brow.

The evening wore on well into the early hours and the hall was full of celebratory high fives and backslapping from the large contingent of Conservatives. Many of the Labour contingent had already left as the South ward entered into a recount. At around 3am it was announced that Labour’s Janet Goodwin had held onto her seat, but the second seat created by the resignation of Labour leader Ray Oxby had fallen to UKIP’s Jane Bramley. She returns to the council for the remaining year of Oxby’s tenure.

It was a night that the Tories will remember for a long time. As they moved on to their celebration party, Labour were left to reflect on how they had manged to mess it up so spectacularly.

For the first time in many many years the council will enter the new year with the Conservatives in power.


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