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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 BarkerMartin 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, ParkgateMartin 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.

Related content:

Elections 2015 - Results for Seats in the CH64 area

Labour retains Ellesmere Port & Neston with new MP


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At 23:31 on 8th May 2015, DavidJ commented:
Tremendous result. It was worth waiting for. Well done Martin and the residents of Parkgate who have supported you. The Community Spirit in Parkgate just gets better.
Robin H
At 00:13 on 9th May 2015, Robin H commented:
Congratulations Martin and best wishes. As for your victory being a 'surprise' to some I am afraid it illustrates only too well how the established parties have failed to appreciate the appetite for change that exists in this area and the way that Parkgate (and Neston, parts of which are in this ward) is developing.
Corporal Jones
At 00:46 on 9th May 2015, Corporal Jones commented:
Congratulations, Martin. It is so good to see a person who has given his time to the community installed as the local councillor. The people of Parkgate should be proud of their independence of mind and proud of their excellent representative on the Council. It will give added weight to the work of the Town Council so that Parkgate (and Neston) will have a stronger voice in Chester. Well Done.
Eunice U
At 07:59 on 9th May 2015, Eunice U commented:
I'm feeling quite uplifted to live in an area that bucks the trend with a successful Labour candidate and CWAC's only independent councillor! Shows that we can think for ourselves?
At 08:16 on 9th May 2015, a.pickton commented:
What brilliant news to wake up to this morning! Well done to Mr Barker and I look forward to seeing him shaking things up over the next few years!
At 09:32 on 9th May 2015, Boris commented:
Such good news! Congratulations Mr Barker.
At 10:46 on 9th May 2015, D M commented:
Congratulations to Councillor Barker on this historic result. The future looks very bright for Parkgate.
Joey's Mum
At 11:27 on 9th May 2015, Joey's Mum commented:
Told you he was a good egg! Brilliant news, well done to Martin Barker. As for the Tory candidate, you can't fool us Parkgaters, we know what's what. Just a quick kind word for Oliver Peers though, he knocked on our door and I thought he seemed very genuine. He didn't stand a chance for my vote as I was already decided, but fair play to him for giving it a go. One of Martin's team knocked, but we didn't see anyone from Labour the whole time. Wonder why they bothered fielding anyone for the seat.
At 11:54 on 9th May 2015, Cal commented:
Congratulations to Myles Hogg what a lovely gentleman. Always around if you need help and advice. Very approachable. Just unfortunate conservative leader does not have the same qualities.
At 13:47 on 9th May 2015, Rodders commented:
Oh dear tut tut

"Andrew Merrill made no attempt to congratulate Martin as is the custom - and courtesy - of the occasion."

I hate a poor loser. Parkgate had a lucky escape. Martin fought a fair campaign.

I hope thats the last we will see of Merrill and his like.
At 13:51 on 9th May 2015, Rodders commented:
I met Oliver recently.. A nice man I bet he would have shook Martin Barkers hand.
At 15:34 on 9th May 2015, Boris commented:
At least for Andrew Merrill he doesn't have to look into relocating to Parkgate now....(doubt he would anyway!) he can stay in Mickle Trafford... and hopefully he stays there and learns his lesson that dishonest and bogus political campaigning doesn't work always work.

Well done Councillor Barker!
At 15:38 on 9th May 2015, Boris commented:
*doesn't always work (Sorry for the typo)!
At 08:25 on 13th May 2015, Grumpy.Old.Git commented:
Yes very good news indeed, local person for local issues. Shows that top-down decision making by political parties - forcing acolytes into safe seats- is no longer sensible. Hope the message gets through.
Dennis L
At 16:33 on 13th May 2015, Dennis L commented:
Congratulations Cllr.Barker and Bar- the and Bar for being both a county councilor and our town councilor.

It is nice to find a man who puts up his own money to be elected and also found time to knock my door for a chat before the elections.

Wishing you strength from your success and many enjoyable years as our councilor. .

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