Comfortable win for Tories in Fens by election but strong UKIP performance as Lib Dem votes wither away to almost nothing
03:02 09 May 2014
Conservatives retained their grip on Fenland District Council in a by election which they won comfortably.
The contest yesterday for the Roman Bank ward near Wisbech – comprising Gorefield, Leverington, Newton and Tydd St Giles- was caused by the resignation of former planning committee chairman Phil Hatton.
Conservatives hold both other seats in the ward and maintained their stranglehold following the election of care worker Samantha Clark.
Ms Clark, who describes herself as an “energetic, ready to challenge where necessary person”, polled nearly half the votes in a five strong field.
She promised to “work very hard to make people proud of me” following a poll in which she secured 763 votes.
UKIP councillor Alan Lay, who narrowly took the county council seat last year with an 11 vote majority, came second with 537 votes.
“I was quite happy- second can’t be bad,” he said. “Don’t forget I was on my own too. “No agents and little support on the ground –just me and fellow county councillor Paul Clapp.”
Labour’s Barry Diggle, a former chairman of Fenland Council, campaigned for a link road from the A1101 to the A47 “to alleviate a lot of heavy traffic from our side of town.”
It didn’t help his share of the vote which dropped 12 per cent from Labour’s performance in the 2011 poll.
Former Wisbech town clerk Erbie Murat (currently fighting an employment tribunal against his former bosses) stood as an independent promising an antidote to “more of the same platitudes and vague national promises”. He came fourth with 70 votes.
Mr Murat described it as “a good campaign which I have really enjoyed.” He wouldn’t commit on standing again but said he was busy doing volunteer work whilst awaiting the outcome of appeal against his dismissal.
“I’m also busy writing two novels simultaneously” he said. “One is about a five year old European lad in 1950s London who has just been orphaned and then gets lost in the snow. “My second novel is entitled ‘Working With Pond Life’”.
In fifth, and final place, was the Lib Dem candidate Stephen Court but who lives in March where he won a by election for the town council last September. He polled just 24 votes.
His agent, Lib Dem district councillor Gavin Booth, conceded that finding local candidates remained a challenge and blamed the poor result on “our being part of Government nationally”.
He said: “The Conservatives put a lot of effort in winning this seat – the story at the end of the day is that we have 12 months to put it together for next year’s elections.”
Tory agent Debbie Clarke said she was delighted with the result coming so soon after the party had lost a by election in East Cambs, ironically to a Lib Dem candidate.
“You take the rough with the smooth,” she said, attributing the Roman Bank success to a strong local candidate.
She declined to comment on the Lib Dem candidate not living in the ward.
“But you have to give them credit,” she said “At least they had the decent to turn up for the count even when they knew they were never going to win.”
Clark, Samantha (Con) 763
Lay, Alan (UKIP) 537
Diggle, Barry (Lab) 193
Murat, Erbie (Ind) 70
Court, Stephen (Lib Dem) 24
Turn out: 29.7 pc