Parkgate Electorate Vote Local in Historic Victory for an Independent
|Published: 9th May 2015 17:48|
Parkgate voters have put their trust in Martin Barker to represent them on Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Having been considered, for many a long year, a safe Conservative seat (at the 2011 election Cllr Brenda Dowding garnered 66% of the vote), the swing to an Independent took many observers by surprise, not least the local Conservative party who had brought in a candidate from the Chester area.
Martin Barker at one of the Polling Stations in
Parkgate on Thursday.
Politically, it creates a very interesting scenario, as at time of writing (Friday 8.5.15, 22:40) there were 36 seats declared for the Labour Party and 36 for the Conservatives, with just the two Newton seats left to declare (following a recount on Saturday) meaning that this single Independent seat could potentially carry a great deal of weight. (* See update below)
Martin, a former Mayor of Neston and current Neston Town Councillor, had stood entirely independently of any political party for this seat, stating in his various election materials that he wished to ensure that the best interests of local people would be properly represented on Cheshire West and Chester Council.
A very tightly contested election resulted in a recount, with Martin Barker eventually being declared the winner with 931 votes to the nearest contender - Conservative candidate Andrew Merrill's 878. It was reportedly a highly charged atmosphere at the Northgate Arena as the result was announced.
Mike Shipman, Martin Barker's agent for the campaign said: "In all my years of political activity I have never witnessed such an ungracious acceptance of defeat by a candidate in a council election.
"Andrew Merrill made no attempt to congratulate Martin as is the custom - and courtesy - of the occasion."
Martin's victory appeared to send a message to the main political parties that they cannot hoodwink voters into electing people who know little or nothing about the area they seek to represent.
In a very lively comments section on AboutMyArea CH64 on the lead-up to the election, several people made it clear that they would not be fooled by what was seen as a cynical attempt by the local Conservative party to convince people that Andrew Merrill, a Mickle Trafford resident, 'gets things done for Parkgate'. Having woken up rather late to the challenge from Mr Barker, in one leaflet Mr Merrill was photographed on The Parade, posing with a pothole, an empty milk carton and pointing at the Marsh, to try and persuade voters that he was dealing with the issues that mattered to them - namely roads, rubbish and mosquitoes.
Martin Barker participating in the 200th Neston
Ladies Club parade. He is now Honorary
Secretary of Neston Female Society.
Photo by Bernard Rose.
By contrast, Martin Barker, who has lived in the Neston area all his life - in the Parkgate ward for the past 10 years - stood from the beginning on a platform of local issues, some of which he has already tackled during his time as a Town Councillor, in particular the mosquito problem, where he worked alongside the RSPB and other bodies to organise the dredging of gullies and creation of new ponds on the Marsh both in Parkgate and Little Neston. He also has a strong track record of serving in the community, as Honorary Secretary of Neston Female Society and Chair of award-winning local amateur dramatic society, Neston Players.
Speaking after the result was announced at Northgate Arena in Chester, Martin said: "Thank you Parkgate! I am so proud to be able to represent the area on Cheshire West and Chester Council.
"My campaign was based on two notions: your local councillor should be a local person who understands local concerns; your local councillor should be already involved in the life of the area. The people of Parkgate agreed with me.
"We have been fortunate that for so many years now Parkgate has been represented by a local, and I'd like to pay tribute to Brenda Dowding for her years of service.
"I'd like to thank my small campaign team for their commitment and hard work. But I'd also like to thank those who posted so many unsolicited comments on the About My Area website - people whom neither I nor my team know.
"With the overall political composition of the Council now on such a knife edge I am sure that I shall be able to get a better deal for Parkgate. And I expect the people of the area to hold me to account!"
In other election news, Justin Madders became the new (Labour) MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston. On Cheshire West and Chester Council, Louise Gittins retained her Little Neston & Burton seat for Labour, but Kay Loch lost out to fellow Conservative Nigel Jones. Andrew Williams retained Neston for Labour and Myles Hogg retained the Willaston & Thornton seat for the Conservatives. The result of the single ward on Neston Town Council that required a vote - Ness - is expected on Saturday afternoon.
* 9.7.2015, 17.45: NEWTON RECOUNT - the two seats in Newton ward in Chester have been declared for Labour, meaning that the party assumes control of Cheshire West and Chester Council. The final tally being 38 seats for Labour, 36 for the Conservative party and 1 independent - Martin Barker.