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Lib Dems Take Two Tory Seats in By-elections

Published on: 3 Dec, 2022
Updated on: 5 Dec, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

The Liberal Democrats have taken two Conservative council seats in Surrey this week after two by-elections, one at Guildford’s neighbouring Waverley Borough Council.

Dave Busby won the Chiddingfold and Dunsfold by-election, Waverley, on Thursday (December 1) with 652 votes, the second-place candidate getting 297 votes.

24 hours earlier, on Wednesday (November 30), another Lib Dem, Harry Boparai won the Sunbury Common and Ashford Common SCC division of Spelthorne.

Both elections took place following the deaths of Conservative councillors Alison Todd of Spelthorne and John Gray, who died in September, having been a councillor at WBC since 2015.

The Tory candidate for Chiddingfold and Dunsfold, Ian Mitchell, was suspended by his party on Monday (November 28) and stood as an Independent, though ballot papers had already been issued listing him as a Conservative.

A spokesperson for the South West Surrey Conservatives said an investigation was pending regarding a social media post “that could be considered to be an inappropriate use of social media”.

The association said in a statement: “Given this, we have suspended Mr Mitchell from the Conservative Association pending an investigation into his conduct that may potentially lead to disciplinary proceedings being taken.”

No Green candidate stood in the Waverley by-election, and the result represents a 43 per cent swing to the Lib Dems since the 2019 election.

Cllr Paul Follows

Waverley borough council’s Lib Dem leader Cllr Paul Follows (Godalming Central and Ockford) said: “I am ecstatic by the result, further strengthening the progressive coalition at Waverley Borough Council that I have the honour of leading with the addition of a fantastic, local, and hard-working new councillor.

“This is also a huge win and swing in a part of our borough in which the Conservatives have long just assumed the vote was theirs.”

The full results were as follows:

Chiddingfold and Dunsfold, Waverley

  • Dave Busby, Liberal Democrat: 652 (66.6 per cent) Elected
  • Ian Mitchell, Independent: 297 (30.3 per cent)
  • Rebecca Aitken, Labour 30 (3.1 per cent)

Sunbury Common and Ashford Common, Spelthorne (turnout 17.5 per cent)

  • Harry Boparai, Liberal Democrats 735 (elected)
  • Naz Islam, Conservative 720
  • Khalid Mustafa, Labour Party 383
  • Rory O’Brien, Reform UK 144
  • Helen Couchman Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 63

There are now 16 Liberal Democrat councillors on the county council, of a total of 81 seats.

Cllr Will Forster

Will Forster, leader of Surrey Lib Dems said: “This is great news for Harry and great news for the Lib Dem group on Surrey County Council. We were already the largest Lib Dem group on the County Council since 1997 following successes in the local elections in May 2021, when we increased our number to 14.”

The results seem to be a reflection of the standing of the continuing unpopularity of the Conservatives, nationally, as shown in recent polls. Voters in Surrey seem to prefer switching to the Lib Dems rather than Labour.

National Party Voting Intention from Politico’s poll of polls (click on image to enlarge)

This article has been corrected. Errors in the first version were introduced in the edit and no fault of the LDRS reporter.

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