Monday, May 10, 2021

2021 County Council elections - so, what happened in Mid Suffolk? (part 2)

Yesterday, the first part of this review was a tale of Liberal Democrat disaster and Green triumph. Today, at least from a Liberal Democrat perspective, I offer you something a little more edifying...

If ever there was a message that persistence pays off, Stowmarket South provided a tale of triumph for Keith Scarff at the fifth attempt. His first attempt saw him come third in 2005, 540 votes adrift in a respectable third place. By 2009, he'd got within 73 votes in second, and got even closer in 2009, losing by 40 but coming third in a knife edge contest. 2017 saw a small step backwards, losing by 132 but, this time...

  • Keith Scarff (Liberal Democrat) - 1,030 votes (40.3%)
  • Nick Gowrley (Conservative) - 854 votes (33.4%)
  • Emma Bonner-Morgan (Labour) - 380 votes (14.9%)
  • David Card (Independent) - 292 votes (11.4%)
So, round 4 of the contest between Messrs Scarff and Gowrley brought the score between them to 2-2, with the Conservative triumphant in 2015 (Mid Suffolk) and 2017 (Suffolk), and losing both seats in 2019 and 2021. In two elections, Keith has beaten the Conservative Leader of Mid Suffolk, and the Conservative Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Housing and Enterprise.

I did deliver a few leaflets for him, but in all honesty, Keith has done the hard yards pretty much on his own, and all of the credit for his success must go to him.

The second blue on blue contest was Thedwastre North, and I did suggest that this might allow the Green to sneak through. Sure enough, Jane Storey's very respectable result left enough space for Andy Mellen to snatch the seat. It wasn't actually that close...
  • Andy Mellen (Green) - 1,472 votes (40.9%)
  • Harry Richardson (Conservative) - 1,226 votes (34.0%)
  • Jane Storey (Independent) - 702 votes (19.6%)
  • Ursula Ajimal (Labour) - 199 votes (5.5%)
It's another area of genuine Green strength at District Council level, and I suspect that, if Andy digs in, he'll be very hard to shift in four years time.

Penny Otton had her easiest contest yet in terms of winning margin, but it wasn't that easy in Thedwastre South.
  • Penny Otton (Liberal Democrat) - 1,435 votes (46.0%)
  • John Augustine (Conservative) - 1,321 votes (42.3%)
  • Philip Cockell (Labour) - 364 votes (11.7%)
I'm pleased for Penny, and Ros and I did do some leafletting for her in Great Finborough but it comes down to years of hard work, as well as her solid support in Rattlesden, her District Council seat.

There was never any serious prospect of the Conservative Leader losing his seat in Thredling and, sure enough...
  • Matthew Hicks (Conservative) - 2,084 votes (63.2%)
  • Helen Bridgeman (Green) - 602 votes (18.3%)
  • Kathleen Hardy (Labour) - 417 votes (12.7%)
  • Mark Pearson (Liberal Democrat) - 192 votes (5.8%)
And, in truth, it would have been a real upset had Upper Gipping changed hands, given that the Greens dominate the area at District Council level, and Andrew Stringer had no trouble in defeating the Conservative sacrificial lamb.
  • Andrew Stringer (Green) - 2,250 votes (63.3%)
  • Kieren Lathangue-Clayton (Conservative) - 1,075 votes (30.2%)
  • Julie Reynolds (Labour) - 231 votes (6.5%)
So, the final outcome across the ten seats in Mid Suffolk was;
  • Conservatives - 5 seats (down 2)
  • Greens - 3 seats (up 2)
  • Liberal Democrats - 2 seats (no change)
From a Liberal Democrat perspective, it was a bit disappointing but not awful. I still think that Bosmere is entirely winnable, although work needs to start now, and campaigns launched in Ringshall & Battisford and that part of Onehouse that falls in Bosmere. Gipping Valley is, perhaps, less easily regained, given our weakness in Claydon & Barham. That said, the paperless candidate there gained 30% of the votes in 2019, so there may be a latent, and accessible, Liberal Democrat vote out there if someone wants it badly enough.

The Conservatives face a dilemma. Whilst Hartismere and Thredling seem pretty safe, winning back Stowmarket South and Thedwastre North may prove to be challenging. They have very little in the way of a ground war - leaflet deliveries are paid for and their campaigning material is highly generic. On the plus side, the default position is to vote Conservative in Mid Suffolk in the absence of an organised challenger.

The Greens can look forward. They may hope to gradually supplant the Liberal Democrats in their current strongholds, and they can look to Hartismere as a potential next target. They're also now the official opposition on Suffolk County Council, and it'll be interesting to see how they perform at Endeavour House. There are plenty of weaknesses for them to highlight.

And finally, Labour. They ran a candidate in every Division, averaging 12% across the board, but never achieving more than 16.1% anywhere. Their support is broad and shallow, and they didn't appear to be trying anywhere. Frankly, if you're looking for a Progressive Alliance to emerge, Mid Suffolk demonstrates that Labour have no interest in playing nicely. On the other hand, their vote is eminently squeezable - they did better in Conservative held seats - so that does suggest a route forward for Greens and Liberal Democrats.

1 comment:

nigel hunter said...

I do believe that LibDems and Greens need to work together to bring forth change and drag the country into the future for a prosperous country. Labour has also to be dragged into this coalition to give England a new identity