Observer Comment

NOW the dust has settled after one of the most dramatic local elections in recent years, both Labour and the Conservatives are taking stock of the lay of the land (pages 4 and 5).

Labour is basking in the glory of having the most seats on the council in recent years while the Tories are trying to come to terms with one of their lowest ever showings.

Labour leader Jeremy Birch is sure to reward his big hitters with places on the most important committees.

Stalwarts Peter Chowney, Trevor Webb, Phil Scott and Kim Forward are likely to be tasked with taking the party forward on all fronts.

But already waiting in the wings is the next generation. James Bacon put up an impressive performance in his home ward of Maze Hill.

The 22-year-old’s zest and appetite for the election was a true inspiration.

On New Year’s Day, the aspiring young man was not lying in bed at midday nursing the usual youthful hangover.

Instead he was out knocking on doors and canvassing with gusto in the streets.

He gave Maureen Charlesworth an almighty fright just 44 votes behind the long-standing Tory member. Cllr Birch has already marked his card for the next elections.

It is always refreshing to see someone so young wanting to get involved in politics and make his mark.

And with new Tory leader Rob Cooke, just 10 years his senior, it is a breath of fresh air to see young people wanting to stand up and be counted.

The only way to engage today’s disenchanted youth is to give them a voice and show them how they can make a difference.

What Cllr Cooke lacks in experience he more than makes up for with his fervour and commitment to change.

And as social commentator and singer, Bruce Springsteen, sang: “You can’t start a fire without a spark.”

Could this be the dawning of a new era for Hastings drivers?

Any frustrated motorist who has ever sat in traffic where the A21 bottlenecks between Pembury and Tonbridge (and frankly, that is most of us) knows the importance of the road-widening scheme announced this week (page 17).

Turning this gridlocked stretch of road from single lane to dual carriageway will substantially cut the time it takes to travel from here to London.

Not only will it benefit those of us heading north on trips up to the capital and beyond, it is an encouraging step towards regenerating our area which suffers from poor transport links.

Hot on the heels of the Hastings to Bexhill Link Road getting the green light, the future is now looking brighter for road travel. Both schemes have been hit by false starts in the past, so this commitment is most welcome, even if it won’t be completed for several years.

Now what we need is an improvement to our train service.