Conservatives select one of youngest ever leaders

The new leader of the Conservatives in Hastings Rob Cooke and deputy leader Andrew Gurney
The new leader of the Conservatives in Hastings Rob Cooke and deputy leader Andrew Gurney

THE CONSERVATIVE party has elected one of their youngest ever leaders to take the group forward following its disastrous showing at the local elections.

Rob Cooke, 33, was elected unopposed at a group meeting last Friday just hours after former leader Matthew Lock was toppled in St Helens.

The father-of-two pledged to re-engage with the young people of the town and provide a voice for residents.

“I have of lot of ideas,” said councillor Cooke. “I am not daunted by the task ahead. I wanted the job and will do my very best to serve the people of this town.”

The father-of-two has been thrust into the limelight after his party’s dismal performance at the local election.

Labour picked up six seats as the Tories took a severe beating which included the loss of their leader Mr Lock and deputy leader Matthew Beaver.

Cllr Cooke has already spent 10 years as a councillor and defended his seat in Ashdown last week by 145 votes.

He will work alongside Rob Gurney who was chosen as his deputy.

Cllr Cooke is now busy working out which committee’s to position his eight members ahead of Thursday’s full council meeting.

“I know I am only 33 but I am not green around the gills,” he said: “I have been lead member for community for two years.

“And I have no fear about taking the party forward.

“We need to get out into the community, knock on doors and listen to what people have to say.

“We know what this town needs. We will fight for more businesses to come to the town, better road and rail links and equal opportunity for all. I want a snow angel service to help people who affected by bad winter weather and a dispossessed scheme where we get local business and community to help those who are living below the breadline.

“I want to see young people, especially young women, get involved with us. I want to see more ethnic minorities represented in our party.

“We have to find ways to improve services to residents. I want to see young people getting the change of a good education whatever their background.

“I want to fight for a one per cent reduction in council tax - not just freeze it.

“I want my kids to grow up in this town and be proud of it. Like everyone else, I want them to have access to good education, health service, jobs and transport links.

“It’s never easy to be a councillor when you’re party is in power. But it’s about doing a good job and that’s what I intend to do.”

Chairman of the Hastings Conservative Association, Arthur Burgess, said: “Rob will show some inspired leadership and we have every confidence in him. He was the best man for the job.”