The Lib Dems decline was good news for other parties
Long before the current coalition government the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames was a curious fusion of yellow and blue.
After 12 years of a Liberal Democrat council, that balance shifted right on Friday as the Conservatives removed the incumbent party in resounding fashion.
The result unsurprisingly saw the national alliance damned and tribal loyalties resumed with both sides bullish in defeat and victory alike.
Outgoing Council Leader Liz Green said: “We will be challenging the Conservatives and making sure they know how they are going to pay for their promises.”
She conceded defeat before the Tories had officially won the council but vowed her party will be back in control in four years’ time.
Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate James Berry responded in kind, castigating years of mismanagement he believes has denied residents the services they deserve for paying the highest council tax in London.
He explained: “The people of Kingston have recognised the Liberal Democrats were a tired administration and they are looking forward to change.”
Before the ward counts were declared, prospective Tory candidates hailed the far more vocal support they had received while canvassing than four years ago.
Andrea Craig, re-elected as a Councillor for Canbury, said: “Last time round everyone was very quiet about their support for the Conservatives but this time it was tremendous.”
Her party secured an overall majority of 28 seats by taking five from the Lib Dems and one from Independent candidate Timothy Dennen.
The Conservatives gained control of Kingston Council with a lower share of the vote – 39% – than the 40% they attained in defeat in 2010.
Admittedly the comparison is slightly problematic given the general election coinciding turnout of 69% in 2010 is much higher than the estimated 40% this year.
But it still suggests this result was as much a rejection of the Lib Dems as any ringing endorsement of Kingston Conservatives’ five-point plan.
The beleaguered Lib Dems suffered a harrowing decline in their share of the vote from 43% in 2010 to 30% this year.
Their cause was not helped by the scandal around disgraced former council leader Derek Osbourne, jailed for child pornography offences last October.
They also seemed destabilised by rows over pot-holes, children’s services and the Tolworth Greenway development alongside a national feeling of indignation towards the party.
If not solely to the Tories, then where could the Lib Dem support have swung to in Kingston?
The main benefactors were Labour, who returned to the council after a four-year exile by winning two seats in Norbiton following Sunday’s second recount.
They almost claimed the ward outright but party leader Laurie South fell just three votes short of Liberal Democrat Bill Brisbane for the third seat.
Before the result Mr South was confident his party could re-establish itself in a ward where they had won the top two seats in both 2002 and 2006.
He added: “Norbiton has always been a Labour area – it was only lent to the Liberal Democrats in 2010.”
Across the borough Labour increased their share of the vote to 18% – a 50% rise on their 2010 showing.
In other areas of Kingston the clash between blue and yellow duly turned Green.
The Green Party more than doubled their share of the vote from 2010 to reach 7% in the borough.
They finished a remarkable second to the Conservatives in Canbury by beating both the Lib Dems and Labour and enjoyed a strong showing in Tudor.
This success was tempered by all six of their candidates in the targeted wards of Coombe Vale and Grove finishing in the bottom three of each count.
Ryan Coley, who achieved the Greens’ most impressive result by taking fourth in Canbury, acclaimed it an amazing night for his party.
He asserted: “Next time around we will get at least one if not two council seats in Kingston.”
This will undoubtedly also be the aim of UKIP who obtained 6% of the vote in their first year of standing in a full Kingston local government election.
There were even early rumours at the count they had won two seats, including through Tolworth and Hook Rise candidate David Henson.
He said: “We are able to connect with the electorate a lot easier because we say what’s on our mind and what’s on people’s minds.”
The populist Eurosceptic party’s message resonated best with residents in Chessington South where candidates Gina Healey and Coral Cottle beat two Conservative rivals and all three Labour hopefuls.
However, reports of Mr Henson’s victory were ultimately unfounded as he failed to really challenge the Lib Dem control of his ward.
It is difficult to identify exactly where the Lib Dem vote went, as it is likely there was defection from all parties in various directions.
Yet if this trend continues, it would not be surprising to see this three party Kingston Council add a fourth or even a fifth name in 2018.
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- 76A crushing victory saw the Conservatives capture the decisive battleground of Kingston Council after 12 years of Liberal Democrat leadership. The Tories established an unassailable 28-17 lead on Friday with one ward still undeclared to defy predictions of a tighter contest. Liberal Democrat leader Liz Green conceded the council to…