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What Awaits Guildford After Voter Revolution Topples Tories?

Published on: 4 May, 2019
Updated on: 5 May, 2019

Some of the R4GV and GGG members enjoying their success at yesterday’s election count.

As predicted, two factors caused the political earthquake in Guildford yesterday, frustration over Brexit and anger with the Local Plan.

Remainers frustrated with Brexit were undoubtedly attracted to the Liberal Democrats, the only established party with a clear Brexit position: they want to stop it.

The Lib Dems were also bound to recover ground from the nadir of their fortunes in the post-coalition election of 2015. Annoyed Leavers, if Brexit was their sole concern, probably stayed away, further decreasing the Conservative vote although turnouts were nowhere near as low as expected.

Those whose discontent centred on, or transferred to the Local Plan seem to have supported the new Residents for Guildford and Villages party and backed the Guildford Greenbelt Group.

At the start of the count, in the light of the overnight results, it was clear the Conservatives would be up against it. The result in nearby Tandridge did not augur well for them. But such has been their dominance that it was hard to believe they could really lose control.

Happy Stoughton Lib Dems following the announcement of their clean sweep

The first couple of results seemed to indicate that major change was not, after all, on the cards. The Lib Dems saw off the GGG candidate in Effingham and the Conservatives in Ash Wharf and Ash Vale won quite easily.

But then came the first Conservative losses, two seats in what was regarded to be the fairly safe Burpham. Incumbent Christian Holliday was a keen Leaver so surely that should give him some protection from angry Leavers, and he had abstained in the vote to adopt the Local Plan? Neither afforded protection. Out he went, together with his ward colleague.

The Burpham result is announced. It turned out to be the first of many defeats for the Conservatives.

After that, it was just one Tory wipeout after another. Even those on the winning side could hardly believe their success. Some Conservatives understandably retired to the bar. Who wouldn’t fancy a consoling drink?

Perhaps included were a few pints of bitterness. One source said he witnessed Matt Furniss, booted out by the normally loyal voters of Christchurch, remonstrating with the BBC’s Tim Donovan, down from London to report on Guildford’s political fortunes.

The BBC seemed to think that a shot of the scene in the bar would add a human angle but apparently, the former deputy leader, perhaps unused to coping with national media, tried to insist it should not be broadcast. The BBC rejected his request, the source said. Later the short clip formed part of the regional news bulletin.

One former Tory who knows a thing or two about the party in Guildford and elections sent a prediction, before Thursday, that the Tories would go down to 15 or 16 seats. So dominant have the Conservatives been in Guildford that it seemed hard to believe. In the end, his prediction that few would have shared was not far wide of the mark.

The big question now is, what next? Will there be coalitions or pacts? Who will emerge as the council leader? What can or should be done about the Local Plan? How can R4GV use its success? We live in interesting times.

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test 13 Responses to What Awaits Guildford After Voter Revolution Topples Tories?

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    May 4, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    Let’s hope that residents in Guildford are never again held hostage by the national parties and their agendas.

    It would be great if this ushered in an era of government of the residents by the residents for the residents. That would be more conservative than the so-called Conservatives, more liberal than the so-called Liberals and more socially aware than the so called Labour party.

  2. David Carter Reply

    May 4, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    My prediction is a Lib Dem/Conservative coalition with either Caroline Reeves or Liz Hogger taking the lead.

    My reasons are that the experienced Lib Dems councillors who have sat through six years of the Local Plan formulation and supported the plan would not want the new less experienced councillors taking the leadership and taking the rash decision of challenging the legality of the council’s own plan by judicial review. This coalition might only last for a short time or at least until the six-week challenge period is up.

    • John Perkin Reply

      May 5, 2019 at 8:30 am

      The Liberal Democrats would be most unwise to do such a thing. Their experience in a national coalition with the Conservatives should be enough to give them pause.

      Those who believe that the failure to implement Brexit is the main cause of anger locally are wrong – dissatisfaction with the Local Plan is far more important.

      • Harry Eve Reply

        May 5, 2019 at 3:18 pm

        I agree. If the LibDems get into bed with the Cons it will be the equivalent of Turkeys voting for Christmas. And they were doing so well. Once bitten twice shy.

  3. David Roberts Reply

    May 5, 2019 at 11:45 am

    A wise warning from David Carter. Cllr Reeves has been a supporter of the Tory plan, as indeed has Cllr Gunning for Labour. Both quite wrongly see it as town v. country issue, failing in their duty of opposition.

    Let’s hope the Lib Dem national command vetoes a Lib Dem/Con coalition as a cynical betrayal of what we voted for and a contradiction of all they are trying to achieve nationally. There would be huge public outrage, not least among Lib Dem voters and many of their councillors, who would suffer a local backlash similar to the national one in 2015.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      May 5, 2019 at 4:47 pm

      Is David Roberts suggesting that any party would join with the Conservatives to run the council? Surely not.

  4. Colin Cross Reply

    May 5, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    For what it’s worth my money is on Fiona White, who once was council leader for the all-conquering Lib Dems around 15 to 20 years back. A promising outsider is Tom Hunt, new but has gravitas.

    It’s also more likely they will offer tacit support to the Tories without any tie-ins, at least until the European elections are passed. The covert unknown will be the leanings of the eight or so newcomers on their ticket.

    Are they more to the green side or the dark side? Time will tell and the enlarged group may still prove as unpredictable as they are unwhipped, at least officially and for the time being.

    Colin Cross is the R4GV councillor for Lovelace (Ripley, Wisley and Ockham).

  5. Graham Vickery Reply

    May 6, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    GBC’s Lib Dem leadership would be wise to keep in mind that had R4GV [Residents for Guildford & Villages] been able to field more candidates fewer Lib Dems would be where they are now.

    • George Potter Reply

      May 7, 2019 at 9:12 am

      And R4GV’s leadership would be wise to keep in mind that everywhere they stood against sitting Lib Dem councillors they lost. If they had stood against the Lib Dems in more seats then there would have been far more R4GV defeats.

      George Potter is the Lib Dem councillor for Burpham

      • John Perkins Reply

        May 7, 2019 at 1:42 pm

        What an odd use of “everywhere”. Friary & St Nicholas and Onslow are the only two wards where R4GV stood against sitting Lib Dems.

        In both cases, the solitary R4GV candidate lost only by a tiny number and a second R4GV candidate would almost certainly have resulted in both of them being elected with only one Lib Dem.

    • John Perkins Reply

      May 7, 2019 at 9:15 am

      An interesting feature of our democracy is that it sometimes depends on the number of candidates fielded.

      Had R4GV put up a second candidate in Ash South & Tongham, it’s very unlikely Paul Spooner would still be a councillor.

  6. Stuart Barnes Reply

    May 7, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Is there any point in analysing the fate of the Conservatives locally or nationally?

    I suggest that Mrs May and her sinister and anti-democratic Remainer cabinet and unelected Remainer civil servants have ensured that there will be no Conservative party in the near future.

    It would make more sense to analyse what the successor party (the Brexit Party) will do.

  7. Graham Vickery Reply

    May 7, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Mr George Potter makes the distinction about ‘sitting’ Lib Dems councillors winning against R4GV / GGG candidates.

    Looking only at ward results where both Lib Dems and R4GV/GGG candidates stood, there were nine winning councillors for the Lib Dems, versus the 13 of R4GV/GGG. Does that not inform Mr Potter.

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