Tonight we lost the Staplehurst (Maidstone Borough Council) by-election to the LibDems by a majority of six votes.
One of the team asked me tonight "what went wrong?" I never blame the voters (they are totally free to vote however they see fit). I don't blame the opposition - they, like me, fight like tigers for what they believe in, and have every right to do so. Nor (unlike quite a few in my Party) do I blame UKIP for allegedly "splitting our vote" - we don't own our supporters or have a right to their loyalty.
Tonight, however, there is someone who should shoulder part of the responsibility, the ward's former Conservative councillor who resigned from the council within a week of the 22 May election and caused the vacancy. Why did he resign? Because he wasn't given a job by the new Conservative Group leader in her administration. Not only that, he compounded matters by confirming his reasons to the local newspaper (see HERE), who splashed it on their billboards outside every shop in town. In taking this course of action he betrayed his council colleagues, he betrayed the Conservative Party and he betrayed the residents of his ward. Some might not like me for writing this, but his behaviour was deplorable and in my opinion he should be booted out for bringing the Party into disrepute.
Our candidate today, Louise Brice, was a true star who could not have worked harder. I was proud to be her agent and get to know her over the last 5 weeks. I hope she stands again and wins the seat back in 2015.
It is ironic that the Conservative vote went up by 3% compared with 22 May (despite the cause of the by-election). Sadly the LibDems managed to establish themselves as the main challenge and pipped us at the post. That's life!
Congratulations to Staplehurst's new LibDem councillor, Paulina Watson.