Forget Eastleigh, Thursday’s by-election in Berrylands sends a resounding message that the Liberal Democrats are far from ready to roll over and give up the fight.
While most of the political big guns went on the campaign trail in Eastleigh, Sushila Abraham claimed victory in Berrylands following a slick campaign that saw fellow Liberal Democrats, Councillor Bob Steed and Secretary of State, Ed Davey MP, rally behind her.
On Wednesday Robin Meltzer, the newly appointed Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Richmond Park, North Kingston & New Malden, tweeted: “Pleasure to canvass with Sushila Abraham in Berrylands today. She’d be a terrific Councillor.”
Kingston Lib Dems won the election despite controversial plans to raise council tax by 1.99 per cent and allegations of a cover up by Children’s Services following the death of Charito Cruz in 2011. But their votes dropped by 6 per cent from the last election.
Laurie South, Chair of Kingston & Surbiton Labour Party, said: “The Liberal Democrats refused to discuss, explain or apologise for their borough failures, particularly the scandal surrounding the Ofsted Children’s Services report where they refuse to take responsibility and resign, but persist in blaming officers.”
The Conservatives were up about 9 per cent and Labour nearly tripled their vote to 18 per cent.
The by-election was called following the death of Councillor Frances Moseley in December last year. Ms Moseley returned the highest number of votes in the Berrylands ward at the last council election.
Thursday’s results in Berrylands and Eastleigh are in stark contrast to national polls that put the Liberal Democrats behind the main parties with just 10 per cent of the popular vote.
Prior to boundary changes in 2002, Berrylands was considered a safe Conservative seat, now only one of the three Berrylands seats is Conservative-held.
The outcome of Thursday’s by-election was never a threat to the Liberal Democrats control of the local Kingston Council who retain 26 seats, compared to the 21 seats held by the Conservative party. Labour lost its two council seats back in 2006.
Full results Berrylands ward by-election February 28, 2013
Lib Dems (Sushila Abraham) 948, 38.5%
Conservative (Mike Head) 761, 30.9%
Labour Party (Tony Banks) 455, 18.5%
UKIP (Michael Watson) 175, 7.1%
Greens (Ryan Coley) 112, 4.6%
Voter turnout: 34.4%
Eligible voters in ward: 7138