A NIGHT of consolidation was the message from Labour leader Jeremy Birch as his party strengthened its grip on power at last night’s lengthy election count.
Councillor Birch was delighted with his party’s performance at Hastings Borough Council elections yesterday as it collected another seat and moved to 24 in total, the most in recent history.
The first results only arrived at 1.30am leaving many candidates pacing fevourishly up and down the count hall into the small hours.
And Cllr Birch was keen to point out how the voters had united against UKIP in his Central St Leonards ward.
“We are the most mixed community in Central St Leonards,” he said during his victory speech. “Bigotry has been absolutely defeated in our ward.”
UKIP’s Kevin O’Doherty, the man who had sparked controversy over his alleged comments about Muslims, came third in Central St Leonards with 206 votes.
Elsewhere UKIP’s first and only sitting councillor was ousted in Ashdown by Conservative newcomer Michael Edwards by 265 votes with Labour’s David Baker beaten closely beaten into third place.
In the severn wards UKIP stood they performed well finishing second or third and collected a total of 2,389 votes.
The Conservatives saw a trio of young guns earn their seats, two of them returning for a second stint at Town Hall, as the party held seven seats and gained one.
Former deputy leader Matthew Beaver grabbed his home ward of West St Leonards for a second time winning by 31 votes in the tightest of victories.
Matthew J Lock triumphed in St Helens by more than a 100 votes in another closely fought battle against Labour candidate Graham Cane.
And Liam Atkins became the youngest councillor at 22 romping to victory in Conquest ward with 742 votes against Labour’s 448 for second placed Eileen Masters.
Hard working Nick Perry was the only notable performer for the Lib Dems earning an impressive 463 votes to finish second in Castle ward behind Labour incumbant Lee Clark who took home 769 votes.
The Greens Sally Phillips was their best performer in Braybrooke ward beating the Lib Dems into third place with 207 votes.
The night’s events left the Labour party on 24 seats and the Tories with eight seats. Turnout was higher than recent years at almost 38 per cent, the good weather potentially being a factor.
A delighted Cllr Birch said: “It was a night of consolidation for us and I was pleased with the vote.
“The Lib Dems are paying a huge penalty for being in coalition with the government.
“Perhaps Hastings is a bell weather, and if it is it’s very good news for the general election next year because if this momentum continues in 2015 it could mark the change of the political make up in this country.
“It’s been a good night for Labour and a consolidation of the position we are in.”
Conservative leader Rob Cooke said: “I am pleased with our performance. Our young candidates have done very well and this is a springboard
for us to keep moving forward.”
The MEP election count will take place on Sunday. For full results visit www.hastingsobserver.co.uk on Monday.
For a full round up of last night’s results and performances see next Friday’s Hastings Observer