Coalition fails to dent Tory dominance in by-election

    Pictured (l-r) on polling day are Tonbridge Conservatives Cllr Sarah Spence, Cllr Sophie Shrubsole, Cllr Pam Bates, Dougie Dick, Cllr Georgina Thomas, Michael Payne, Tom Tugendhat MP, and Andrew Kennedy on December 8 at the Conservative Party Committee room on Tavern Road, Tonbridge.

    THE joint force of three opposition parties was not enough to stop the Conservative candidate winning the Trench ward by-election in Tonbridge.

    Georgina Thomas, 29, received 61 per cent of the vote, continuing the Tory’s hold on the seat previously held by Jean Atkinson. Her death in October triggered the December 8 election.

    Labour’s Fred Long came in second with 21 per cent of the vote. UKIP’s David Allen was third with 18 per cent.

    As the Labour candidate, Mr Long had support from both the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats under the heading of a ‘progressive alliance’. Neither party put forward a contender for the vacant Trench ward seat as they believed this tactic provided the best chance of challenging the Conservative dominance of the Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council (TMBC).

    Thursday’s result means that Cllr Thomas becomes the 48th Conservative in the 54-seat council. There are four Liberal Democrats and two independents.

    Speaking to the Times after her victory, Cllr Thomas she said she put the result down to the fact she had ‘campaigned considerably more than other candidates’. “While others were arguing amongst themselves online, we were out every single day, knocking on doors every day, talking to people,” she said.

    Looking forward, Cllr Thomas says she is keen to represent the voices of young people in the community, arguing that the lack of publicity around events for under-18s in Tonbridge is leading to high levels of anti-social behaviour. She has established a Trench Ward Community page on Facebook in an attempt to combat this.

    After congratulating the winner, Labour’s Mr Long said he ‘made no apologies’ for the left-leaning coalition, describing it as ‘a breath of fresh air’ to see the three parties leafleting together. “We can only hope that the six non-Tory members of Tonbridge & Malling Council have a voice that is heard,” he said

    UKIP’s David Allen blamed the Tory’s ‘sleeker campaign machine’ for the result, and added: “As for Cllr Thomas her principle campaign message was ‘I live here’. That says everything about future expectations.”

    Concerns have been raised over the low level of public engagement as just 27 per cent of 3,613 eligible voters in the ward turned out to vote at the Six In One Club

    Cllr Thomas attributed the low turnout to the cold December weather, as well as a general sense of apathy. “I don’t think many people care about by-elections. I have good friends that I couldn’t even persuade to come out to vote.”