The voters of Canterbury have once again created a political upset after last week’s local poll saw Labour increasing its representation on the city council by 150 per cent. Following on the 2017 success of Rosie Duffield in becoming the first Labour MP for the former Conservative stronghold, the party had its best night in Canterbury for nearly 25 years. Labour now has 10 councillors and will be “a real force to be reckoned with”, said Alan Baldock, the party’s leader on the council.
“The widespread support for our radical manifesto shows that the people of Canterbury are ready for change,” Mr Baldock added. “As the official opposition we will be scrutinising everything the Tories do and making sure that residents’ views are properly listened to.” On a night when the Tories lost both their leader, Simon Cook, and his heir apparent, Benjamin Fitter-Harding, Mr Baldock and Jean Butcher easily held their seats in the Northgate ward taking 56 per cent of the vote in a field that included Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Greens.
In Barton, Labour had a clean sweep with Connie Nolan, Pat Edwards and Dave Wilson taking all three seats up for grabs. The battle for Westgate ward saw Gill Gower winning one seat with the Lib Dem veteran Michael Dixey taking the other. In St Stephens the multi-talented, saxophone-playing Mel Dawkins ousted one Conservative but the well-known local Tory Terry Westgate took the second seat, leaving him as the sole Conservative councillor in the city itself. “It seems his colleagues paid the price for their neglect of the city. Residents have been let down and ignored by the Tories for far too long,” Mr Baldock said.
Over in Whitstable the Labour trio of George Caffery, Chris Cornell and Val Kenny fought off a strong challenge from the Green Party to take all three seats.