Lib Dems confident after by-election success

THE Liberal Democrats in Gosport say that they are confident of taking power in the town next year, after winning this week’s Brockhurst by-election.

Friday, 31st May 2019, 6:50 pm
Updated Friday, 31st May 2019, 8:23 pm
A YouGov poll published this week has the Liberal Democrats as the largest political party

The result of the Brockhurst by-election, triggered by the death of Councillor Austin Hicks, saw the Liberal Democrats hold the seat with 52 per cent of the vote (488), with Siobhan Mitchell-Smith taking the position.

Tory candidate Pecs Uluiviti polled 214 votes, which was 23 per cent, Simon Bellord of the British Union & Sovereignty Party polled 165 (17 per cent) and Kirsty Smillie for Labour received 80, or eight per cent.

Following the result, party leader Cllr Peter Chegwyn believes he could take charge after the local elections in 2020.

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Liberal Democrats at the 2018 local elections. Picture: Malcolm Wells

Leader of Gosport Borough Council and the Conservative Party, Cllr Mark Hook, says he fears this could be the case, with people voting with their feet over the government’s failure to deliver Brexit.

The news comes after a YouGov poll put the Liberal Democrats as the most popular party in the UK.

Cllr Peter Chegwyn said: ‘It was better than I expected – Brockhurst voted for the Brexit Party in the European elections a week ago, so it could have been very different.

‘It’s a further sign, on top of last year’s local election, of what’s going to happen in Gosport next year. I think the Conservatives are going to lose control of the town.

Gosport Borough Council leader, Cllr Mark Hook. Picture: Paul Jacobs

‘I think people have had enough of the Tories now – this by-election was a disaster for them and an even more so for Labour.

‘But above all it’s a good result for a good candidate.’

Conservative leader, Cllr Mark Hook, says he will do all he can to stay in power, but that the government’s handling of Brexit has made his position a tricky one.

He said: ‘I am concerned we could lose control of Gosport, which would be a shame given what we have done over the past 10 years.

‘During the by-election campaign we knocked on hundreds of doors – people said they have little confidence in the Conservatives nationally so they won’t vote for us.

‘Politicians in government have failed to deliver Brexit, so the sooner that is sorted the better.

‘We need to get the message out that people need to look at the local scene, rather than the national picture.’

Newly-elected councillor, 49-year-old Siobhan Mitchell, was also a councillor for the same ward 10 years ago.

She says that she would like to focus on environmental issues, as well as encourage young people to take an interest in politics.

‘It's nice to have this support from the people of Brockhurst,’ she said.

‘This is such a volatile time in politics – people are tired of it but they can't stop talking about it.

'I would like to get people discussing the key issues local to them; we definitely need more young people in politics and we’ve got some great wildlife here in the town that needs protecting.

‘I have joked in the past that this is not the time to get into politics – but perhaps the timing is actually perfect.’