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Town Council By-Election Result

St Annes Town Council By Election 2009The lady working for the Liberal Democrats stood valiantly at her post as the freezing cold wind whistled from the Irish Sea around the draughty corners of King Edward and Queen Mary School - part of which had become a temporary Polling Station for residents of Fairhaven Ward today.

The by election for the seat vacated by Roger Walker (see  Town Council Vacancy) was been quite hotly contested by the four candidates (see Town Council Runners and Riders). Unusually so for a town council election.

First out of the trap we understand were the Liberal Democrats with a more or less standard Liberal democrat flyer announcing Bob Fielding as their candidate.

This was followed closely by independent Bill Whitehead with a tri-fold (as one commentator put it... on decent quality paper)  setting out his credentials and addressed personally in an envelope to each elector. It opened up as a personal letter to each elector.

Next to arrive (with us anyway) was a very strange beast. Looking more like a holiday timeshare brochure that an election address, the visually impressive folded in half A4 full colour promotional leaflet from Peter Wood hit the letterboxes (and flowerpots outside some of the flats where access is difficult).

Finally, old stager Alfred Jealous' leaflet with a picture on one side (useable as a poster) and a personal letter on the inside was distributed.

This level of competition is much more than happens in many Borough elections.

Not only that, but teams of canvassers have been seen in the area since before last weekend, knocking on doors and glad-handing residents. And there were second leaflet drops by several candidates, including a personal letter style one from Bob Fielding.

There were a few interesting little cameos that found their way back to our ears, including the candidate who asked a paper-girl if she would like to earn a bit extra delivering leaflets for him - only to be told she couldn't do that because her dad was also standing as a candidate. At least she was honest. She could have said yes, fine, taken the money, then dumped them to give her dad an advantage.

It's good to know honesty is alive and well in Fairhaven.

With odd exceptions it was a clean campaign, some, but perhaps not too much knocking and mostly gentlemanly behaviour. That's to the credit of all.

So who won. What was the result, and what will it mean for St Anne's on the Sea Town Council?

Well, we understand there were 189 postal votes cast before the election day, but there were only opened today.

At about 10:30 am counterbalance called in at the school to have a look at how it was going. There had been 28 people up to that point, and they had come in dribs and drabs, one or two at time.

By 6:30pm less than 250 had voted. However, it was expected to pick up in the early evening as it usually does.

In advance of the official figures being published, the result was:
  • Bob Fielding (Liberal Democrats) 239 votes
  • Bill Whitehead (independent) 107 votes
  • Peter Wood ('commonsense independent') 101 votes
  • Alfred Jealous (Notary Public) 79 votes

Turnout was 23%

So Bob Fielding has been elected and, after a bit more formality and his signature on various documents of acceptance and agreement, he will be the new Town Councillor chosen by the people of Fairhaven.

We think it will change the dynamic of the Town Council somewhat. There are two people who previously stood and were elected on a Conservative ticket, and up to today one who stood as a Liberal Democrat. That left four people who stood as independents (or at least not aligned with a registered political party).

The one of these four who resigned, Roger Walker, formerly had close links with the Conservative group and in the early days of the Town Council often seemed to vote with the Conservatives. However this was less marked in recent times.

But now there is a 2:2 balance between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors, leaving the three remaining independents with an effective balance of power if there is voting along party lines.

We did not make the following comments before the election because we would not have wanted to have influenced the result for or against a particular person, but despite Bob Fielding being the nice and competent person that he is, we find it very disappointing that party politics is entering the local arena. Town Councils across the Fylde generally eschew party politics, and it is very sad to see people standing as party candidates in St Anne's.

All those who campaigned for the Town Council were united in their condemnation of party politics at this level, believing people should stand as individuals, accountable only to their electorate, not to a political party.

The introduction of party politics at Borough level over many years has damaged the regard in which people hold the Borough Council, and its creep into Town and Parish Councils ought to be resisted.

We criticise the growth of party politics here to highlight the need for an in-principle resistance to all party politics at Town Council level, not to criticise the person elected.

The voters of Fairhaven have decided who will represent them, and Bob will now get on with it. We wish him well.

But there is another repercussion from this election.

The Conservative group will be worried that their former well known Conservative colleague Alfred Jealous did so badly. It was also alleged to us that despite standing as a 'commonsense independent' Peter Wood had conservative connections in his background, and  local Conservative party members supporting him, but he was still beaten into third place by independent Bill Whitehead. Most especially though, the result for the Liberal Democrats - who the Conservatives probably fear most in the run up to the County election in June and the Borough elections just a couple of years away - will send tremors through the Conservative ranks, and we would not be surprised to see changes made in the not too distant future

Dated:  22 January 2009


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