Conservatives win both district and town by elections in Wisbech - but UKIP runner up in both contests
PUBLISHED: 02:09 17 October 2014 | UPDATED: 02:09 17 October 2014
Conservative town councillor Steve Tierney won a seat on Fenland District Council at his third attempt last night but UKIP made it a closely fought contest.
Cllr Tierney beat the UKIP challenger Andrew Hunt by 56 votes in the Medworth ward previously held by former town mayor Jonathan Farmer.
Mr Farmer had been disqualified from office following his conviction on a firearms charge but was at the count to see his former town council colleague secure victory.
In a town where UKIP swept the board at last year’s county council elections – ironically depriving Cllr Tierney of his Roman Bank seat- it was a case last night of almost business as usual for the Conservatives.
Cllr Tierney topped the poll with 257 votes, his UKIP challenger Andrew Hunt (the party did not contest the seat three years ago) polling 201 votes.
Labour, who came second in 2011 with 194 votes in a three horse race with Lib Dems bottom with 58 votes, saw their support collapse.
Labour candidate Kathy Dougall came third with 79 votes – but promised “I’ll be back”. The next full elections for Fenland Council coincide with the 2015 General Election.
It was a disappointing night, too, for the Lib Dems whose candidate, Josie Ratcliffe, drafted in from Chatteris to fight the seat, won just 24 votes.
It was also second time unlucky for Erbie Murat, sacked this year as town clerk of Wisbech, who stood as an independent and polled just 15 votes. He had previously stood in another by election in May.
Mr Murat told his supporters: “On behalf of the eternal triangle I’d like to say thank you.” He is midway through an unfair dismissal claim against his former employers.
Cllr Tierney said after the result was declared: “I’d like to thank the opposition – with the possible exception of one letter – for a fair and honourable campaign.”
Midway through the campaign the Lib Dems circulated a leaflet critical of the Conservatives.
Cllr Tierney had clearly not expected such a strong showing by UKIP, describing earlier the party as “lurking around on the fringes casting scary shadows”.
He rightly predicted the poor showing for Mr Murat “I doubt they (the electorate) will choose an ex-clerk from Guyhirn”) and predicted Labour would make a stronger challenge than was evident in the result.
In a separate contest for a seat on the town council – also caused by the disqualification of Mr Farmer- there was a Conservative win, too.
Jessica Oliver, daughter of Wisbech town council leader David Oliver, narrowly beat her UKIP rival Andrew Hunt. Ms Oliver polled 245 votes, a majority of 23 over Mr Hunt.
Labour’s Kathy Dougall was pushed into third place on 90 votes with Mr Murat nearly doubling his votes from the district poll with 26 votes.
Cllr Tierney, who represents Peckover ward on the town council, is branch chairman of Wisbech Conservatives, an officer in the North-East Cambs Conservative Association Executive, and deputy chairman (membership) of the Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire Conservatives Area Committee.
On his blog Cllr Tierney describes how he prefers “logical and careful policy consideration to emotional roller coasters and believe that good manners and civility are better than cynicism, nastiness and negativity.
“But I am perfectly capable of responding robustly when cheap political shots are taken at me by the opposition. Or by the press. Or by the press in support of the opposition. All of which are entirely common. I hate bullies, in all their forms.”