Fringe Box



176 Hopefuls to Fight for Borough Council Seats in Election Impossible to Call

Published on: 5 Apr, 2023
Updated on: 7 Apr, 2023

By Martin Giles

Nominations for the forthcoming borough council and parish council elections in Guildford borough closed yesterday and were published today.

176 candidates will contest for 48 Guildford Borough Council seats on May 4, in 21 wards with new boundaries. Most political observers seem to agree that the election is the most open for years and impossible to predict.

How the parties shape up

Only the Conservative party is putting up a candidate for every seat but the Liberal Democrats are not far behind with 45 candidates.

Next is the Residents for Guildford & Villages (R4GV) party which is fielding 37 candidates and has a partial electoral pact with the Guildford Greenbelt Group, standing five. But the two parties are both contesting Send, threatening to split the independent party vote there.

Both parties will hope that disillusion with the national parties will weigh in their favour and they are bound to emphasise that they are only concerned with local issues.

Labour is standing 31 candidates. Strangely, they are only putting up one candidate in three-seat Westborough, in former times a ward they dominated. Their incumbent veteran councillor in Stoke, Angela Gunning is retiring and they face a tough fight in the new Stoke ward where 13 candidates will be fighting over the three seats. [It was previously stated James Walsh was also retiring. We apologise for this error. James Walsh is standing in Bellfields & Slyfield.]

Nonetheless, the election is being held against a major resurgence of popularity for Labour and it will be interesting to see how this manifests itself in our local election.

The standing of the national parties normally does have an influence on local elections. Source: Deltapoll

Overall, the Lib Dems must be optimistic that they can increase their share of seats and even take control of the council. To do that they would need a minimum of 24 seats, an increase of seven from their current 17.

One factor in their favour is the background national opinion polling of national party popularity. Although, perhaps surprisingly, support for the Liberal Democrats’, in most of those polls, has stuck below 12 per cent since the last election, the unpopularity of the Conservatives is in their favour. Disgruntled Tory supporters might switch their allegiance to the Lib Dems or simply stay away from the polls.

Source Deltapoll

Another factor of an unknown quantity is the effect the Battle for Guildford video,  part of a social media campaign against high-rise developments in the town centre. Robin Horsley, who runs a video marketing and film production company Utterly Epic Productions and who produced the video, says he is an independent with no party allegiance but recommends voters do not vote for R4GV/GGG.

No doubt the Conservatives are hoping for a bounce after their disastrous 2019 result. Their party has dominated Guildford politics in recent decades in an area sometimes lampooned as the truest of blue. But there have been few discernable signs of revival and off the record some Conservatives seem pessimistic.

With tight winning margins expected every vote is more likely to count but traditionally many do not bother to vote in local elections.

Nonetheless, it should be remembered that even in 2019 the Tories secured 30 per cent of the popular vote. The “swingometer” needs only shift a little for them to win back at least some of the seats they lost. One intriguing question is, with the almost certain departure of Paul Spooner, who will be their group leader in the next council?

And we must not forget the Green Party which had a surprising success in Tillingbourne ward in 2019. No doubt they would be delighted to repeat that but they only have three candidates standing. There are also four Independents, two for the Trade Unionist and Socialist
Coalition and John Morris, standing alone this time, continues his fight for the Peace Party.

Soon Martin Giles will take a closer look at some of the individual wards. Please check back.

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Responses to 176 Hopefuls to Fight for Borough Council Seats in Election Impossible to Call

  1. Robin Horsley Reply

    April 5, 2023 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks for the compliment suggesting I am a PR professional. But I have no training in PR and have never worked for a PR company.

    Editor’s comment: Article updated.

    • David Roberts Reply

      April 6, 2023 at 2:34 pm

      This is disingenuous. Mr Horsley’s company, Utterly Epic, describes itself on its website as “a full-service video-making and film production company” whose website features puffs for right-wing political figures and groups.

      His “Battle for Guildford” video, which explicitly tries to discredit two of the parties in this election, is no different.

  2. Peter Mills Reply

    April 7, 2023 at 9:30 am

    I have no local political affiliations and firmly believe that Independent councillors are likely the best bet to truly act in the best interests of local people. This Dragon interview re the Battle for Guildford video was enlightening:

    By voting for R4GV are we just voting for yet another party-line imposed by their leadership? At least with national parties, their policies are known and the leadership has been democratically installed as such.

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