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Opinion: Important By-election Decisions for Stoke Ward Voters

Published on: 3 May, 2016
Updated on: 4 May, 2016

political rosettesVoters in Guildford’ Stoke ward will be electing a new councillor to represent them in Thursday’s (May 5) by-election, caused by the resignation of Conservative William Chesterfield, due to “work and family commitments”. The former councillor had a poor attendance record.

Even though there are important issues facing our borough council such as the Local Plan and an important and controversial issue the Slyfield Area Regeneration Project, directly affecting the ward itself, it is unlikely that there will be a large turnout.

Opinion Logo 2It is a shame. Our local councillors do an important job and at this point in Guildford’s history the council has some especially important planning decisions to take, decisions that will shape the look and feel of our town and borough for the foreseeable future.

But how will the voters in Stoke ward decide who to support?

Sadly, if past form is anything to go by, the minority who do vote are more likely to base their decision on how they feel about the national political situation than the local one.

The election of William Chesterton last May was a result of such behaviour. Stoke had not previously elected a Conservative since the council was reorganised in 1973 but nationally there was an unexpectedly large swing to the Conservatives.

History of Stoke ward results: 1973 – 2003 Labour held all three seats; 2003 – 2007 Labour held both (ward had been reduced to two seats); 2007 – 2011 Lib Dems held both; 2011 – 2015 Lab 1 Lib Dem 1; 2015 Lab 1 Con 1.

So, in Guildford, the Stoke, Westborough and Friary & St Nicolas wards, normally safe for the Lib Dem or Labour candidates, all returned one or more Conservative councillors. Some of those who were most surprised were the successful Tory candidates themselves.

Whether it is an urban myth or not, one story circulated that some Westborough voters were so exercised by the prospect of SNP victory that they felt it necessary to vote Conservative – even in the local election!

But, on this occasion, despite the unusual mid-term opinion poll lead enjoyed nationally by Conservatives, it seems unlikely that they will hold on to the Stoke seat. But no one, even among those involved in the fight, seems to be able to predict whether the Labour or Lib Dem candidate will win.

Three candidates are standing in the Stoke by election on Thursday, May 5:

Barry Keane, Conservative

James Walsh, Labour

Hannah Thompson, Lib Dem

Click on name to read their interview.

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Responses to Opinion: Important By-election Decisions for Stoke Ward Voters

  1. Stuart Barnes Reply

    May 3, 2016 at 8:32 am

    It is not an urban myth that the prospect of Nicola Sturgeon linking up with “Red” Ed Milliband caused a late surge of English people voting Conservative generally rather than for UKIP which had been their intention.

    I think that can be deduced from the poll movements prior to the general election.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    May 3, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Personally, I don’t care who is elected, what I do care about is that everyone in Stoke ward votes.

    For apathy and disinterest caused by verbiage in the chamber and decisions which do not reflect common sense and rational thinking, are how to bring in dictatorships and extreme views.

    We need balance and common sense coupled with rational and realistic planning for our borough.

    So, get out and vote Stoke!

  3. Paul Spooner Reply

    May 3, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    What has Stuart Barnes’ comment to do with a GBC by-election where his party does not even have a candidate standing. Not even sure why The Dragon posted Stuart’s comment.

    Jim and I certainly don’t agree on everything but I share his request that everyone in Stoke should vote for their preferred candidate. As Jim states, get out and vote Stoke!

    Paul Spooner is the Conservative ward councillor for Ash South & Tongham and the council leader.

    • Stuart Barnes Reply

      May 4, 2016 at 7:38 am

      Currently, I have not got a party but it is certainly not going to be David Cameron’s faux Conservative party.

      My point is that the fear of the far left SNP linking with the almost as far left “Red Ed” Milliband party was enough to sway people away from their original voting intentions in both the local and general elections.

      Regarding the query as to why The Dragon posted my comment, is Mr Spooner trying to censor the comments if they do not suit his/Cameron’s party?

  4. Stephen Mansbridge Reply

    May 4, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    The disappointment is that this by-election was actually necessary. Stoke Ward was won partly on national and local swing, partly because the administration had been making a huge effort to do more in the Stoke, Stoughton and Westborough areas, and partly because the student vote came out strongly having been encouraged by the university’s hierarchy to register.

    Former councillor Will Chesterfield is an excellent person, but was a poor selection by the Conservative association because he had no time to devote to his future role. He did not resign, he was disqualified, having not attended a council meeting for six months: this should have been monitored closely by the Conservative group leadership and prevented at all costs.

    This is not the first mistake the association has made, when it handed UKIP Shalford, on a plate, one of the safest Conservative divisions in the country, at the last county council elections and lost Simon Gimson – an excellent councillor.

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