NORTHUMBERLAND CC: Blyth count roundup
Northumberland’s Liberal Democrat leader, Jeff Reid, predicted that “there may be some surprises” in store throughout the count.
Surprises? Perhaps, but also a sense of deja vu.
The surprises come in various guises. The occasional, unexpected Labour gain for instance (notwithstanding their five loses to the Conservative Party).
Bywell’s newly-elected 25-year-old Labour councillor Holly Waddell narrowly snatched her seat from incumbent Conservative councillor Stephen John Westgarth, 981 to 924.
The Greens secured not only their first seat but their second on the same night. Martin Swinbank, newly elected Green Party councillor for Alnwick, replaces former councillor, now Tory MP, Robbie Moore.
Then the deja vu set in, but curiously we did not know it at first.
Initially, it was reported that Northumberland Labour leader Susan Dungworth had lost her seat of Hartley by one vote to the Conservatives. 868 to 869.
Gasps were audible throughout the sports centre.
The phrase “imagine losing by one vote” echoed and murmured throughout the hall.
However, it later transpired that this was, in fact, only the first of TWO deadheats.
Dungworth and her Tory opponent David Furgeson’s votes matched equally. So, instead of a public straw drawing, they opted for a private ballot drawing.
She lost out on this occasion.
In response to the loss, deputy labour leader Scott Dickinson said: “It’s always difficult to see hard-working Labour councillors lose seats. Especially when we’ve seen so much scandal at the council under the current leadership. We are sad to lose any of our councillors, including Susan.”
Exciting enough and already eerily close to 2017.
But the night and the count was still young.
Despite the mild upsets and the quirks of the night, the Conservatives seemed to be on track for a healthy majority. However, to quote the former Prime Minister Harold McMillian “events, dear boy, events”.
Berwick West with Ord was not only one of the last seats of a long night to be declared but was destined to be another electoral problem child.
Count officials told us the votes had been yet again “thoroughly” counted yet another stalemate had been reached.
So, another private ballot draw was organised between the Liberal Democrat candidate Elizabeth Hunter and Conservative incumbent Gregah Roughead.
And thus the Liberal Democrats finished where they started and the Conservatives had their majority of one.
“After all that,” said Jeff Reid.
Words: Austen Shakespeare, Local Democracy Reporter
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