LOCAL ELECTIONS 2014: Crushing defeat for Lib Dems as Conservatives capture Kingston

A 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 the Conservatives shortly before 8am once several results made it clear her party would relinquish control. 

She said: “We have lost some very good councillors but we have gained some new councillors who will be excellent as well.

“We will be challenging the Conservatives and making sure they know how they are going to pay for their promises.” 

She added a few hundred votes decided the result in the Tories’ favour just as they had done for the Liberal Democrats in the past.

Yet the Conservatives achieved a swing of six seats from the incumbents, including gains in the target wards of Alexandra, Beverley and Canbury.

“This win is for the people of Kingston, for the future of Kingston and young people’s aspirations,” said Tory leader Howard Jones, who was absent for much of the count through illness.

James Berry, the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Kingston & Surbiton who will challenge current MP Ed Davey at next year, said the result showed residents were behind his party’s five-point plan.

“The people of Kingston have recognised the Liberal Democrats were a tired administration and they are looking forward to change.”

He added: “This Tory administration will work effectively and imaginatively after 12 years of Lib Dem mismanagement.”

Their celebrations were severely delayed as an extraordinary amount of split votes – where voters choose three candidates from different parties – and the verification of European election ballots saw the first ward declared around 6.30am.

The first result saw the Lib Dems hold Tolworth and Hook Rise before a run of four Conservative clean sweeps set the tone for their eventual victory.

Newly-elected Berrylands Councillor Andy Johnson, 27, fell asleep shortly before his count was announced but awoke in time to see himself gain a crucial seat from the opposition.

“We will particularly address the issue of pot-holes, which has resonated with a lot of voters who have two or three cars because their teenage children still live at home,” he said. 

The row over pot-holes formed a significant aspect of the pre-election debate, alongside childs’ services issues and the controversial Tolworth Greenway development.

Mr Davey MP earlier said he would be ‘surprised’ if his party held onto the council, given these difficult local issues and their small majority.

He also acknowledged the impact of the scandal around former Liberal Democrat council leader Derek Osbourne, jailed for two years for child pornography offences last October.

But he added: “I was quite disappointed the Conservatives chose to make an issue of it by putting out several leaflets referring to the case.”

There could be further bad news for his party, with Labour poised to regain at least two council seats in the Norbiton ward.

The ward faces another recount on Sunday after a single vote still separated third and fourth following the initial counts.

Featured image courtesy of tomsk, with thanks

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