A CROSS party coalition involving Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Greens has formed in Tonbridge in a bid to win a vacant seat on Tonbridge & Malling District Council.
A by-election is due to take place in the Trench Ward on December 8 to fill the seat held by Cllr Jean Atkinson who died recently.
Although this presents an opportunity for all parties to fight for the seat on the Conservative-dominated Tonbridge & Malling Council, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats have decided to not put forward a candidate and are instead supporting the Labour candidate, 58-year-old Fred Long.
Vice-chair of the Tonbridge & Malling Liberal Democrats, Frani Hoskins, who was a councillor for 21 years from 1986-2007, said: “It wasn’t an easy decision to take. The important reason behind it was that Fred is an excellent candidate and we are confident that he will be a great councillor.”
She argues that she understands people’s frustrations, but points out that in the last Trench ward election the Lib Dems won just 6.8 per cent of the vote, adding: “If I lived in the ward I would be unhappy but it comes to a point where you have to ask: how much do you want to split the anti-Conservative vote?”
The Chair of the Tonbridge & Malling Green Party, Howard Porter, echoed her sentiments, arguing the Labour candidate offered ‘the best chance to challenge the one-party state in Tonbridge’.
Mr Long said: “In purely pragmatic terms it makes sense in Trench Ward for this by-election; the numbers add up and we have many policies in common as well as many that are party specific.” He has pledged to fight for the parties’ ‘common policies’ if he was elected.
In response, the Conservative candidate, Georgina Thomas, 29 said it was a ‘shame’ that there were no Lib Dem or Green candidates, adding: “What I think is worse however, is that the Green Party has put out a leaflet telling their supporters to vote Labour. I don’t think political parties own their voters in this way and if I was a Green supporter I would object to being told what to do by a party which cannot be bothered to field a candidate.”
The UKIP contender, David Allen, 69 said: “I’m not surprised by the move. Look at the Lib Dems, betraying their voters is something they are known for.”
The three candidates will be fighting for the votes of over 3,600 registered electors in the traditionally marginal North West Tonbridge seat, which has been controlled by the Conservatives since 2007.