Count held up as postal votes get left behind in March but then it’s a massive victory for Tories in Whittlesey by election

LONG before acting returning officer Paul Medd announced the most embarrassing mishap in recent election history –postal votes had been left behind in March- the scale of victory was apparent.

And so, an hour later than expected and after Mr Medd had dispatched his PA back to Fenland Hall for the 25 mile return trip to collect them, the votes were collated and Gary Swan had romped home.

The by election in which ‘supermarket-gate’ might have bloodied the Tory candidate’s nose but didn’t was remarkable in that the party took the vacant Whittlesey ward from marginal to one of the safest in Fenland.

On a 30 per cent turn out in St Mary’s ward and in a seat where independent town councillor Roy Gerstner had previously come a close second, Mr Swan took a remarkable 62.5 per cent of the vote.

The 42 year-old town councillor won 397 votes compared to fellow town councillor Mr Gerstner’s 160 votes whilst third place Labour candidate Colin Gale managed 78 votes.

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Fellow district councillor Martin Curtis, ousted from the vice chairmanship of the planning committee for allegedly getting too involved in the issue of supermarkets, always believed Gary would win.

“It was reassuring to know that people largely understand that both Gary and the majority of Whittlesey Conservatives are fighting the Whittlesey corner on the supermarket debate,” Cllr Curtis had earlier posted on his blog.

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Mr Swan, who has worked for Hanson Brick in the town since 1986, praised his election team “who have done Whittlesey proud.” He admitted to having been “a pain in the backside for the last four weeks” but won applause as he thanked his family for their support.

Mr Gerstner, who was within 40 votes of winning the seat last year from Ken Peachey, whose death this summer sparked the by election,“respected the result” and wished Councillor Swan well.

Mr Gale was happy with his campaign – his first- and said he had “put my foot in the water and you’ll see me again.” He felt polling day had been “a nice friendly occasion”. He will contest Whittlesey in next year’s county council elections.

Tory agent Debbie Clarke described it as a “resounding victory for the right person” whilst Mr Medd said he took “full responsibility” for the postal ballot delay.

“I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again”.

He got his staff to rustle up cakes, sweets, biscuits and tea and coffee for the candidates, agents and guests gathered in St Andrew’s church hall for the count.

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