Believe it or not, it has taken me about a week to recover from Polling Day. I have never fought a General Election campaign before – in 2010, I stayed up with a friend and watched the result coming in on the telly – so to do so as an agent, running an MP’s re-election campaign, was quite the baptism of fire. Given that I am also a borough councillor, meaning I was helping out with the local elections as well, it was quite a tough two days because we had the GE count on Thursday night/Friday morning and then we had to be back at the count for 10am on Friday for the results of the borough elections.
For me, it started at around 6am Thursday when I had to commute two hours into Wembley to do a half-day at work, commute the two hours back again, go home, get changed, go our campaigning from around 3pm until 8:45pm – dashing back and forth from the Campaign Committee Room to pick up leaflets, canvass cards, etc – and then back home to get changed and head off to the count. The result, which we were told should come in around 1am, actually didn’t come until gone 3am, with the South Basildon & East Thurrock result coming in at gone 4am. So, you can imagine, getting back to the Sporting Village to hear the local results at 10am the same morning was a real hoot. It was essentially 48 hours of being on the go non-stop with about an hour’s sleep in between. Exhausted does not even cover it. When I finally got home at around 5pm on Friday, I went almost straight to bed and slept the sleep of the dead right through to Saturday morning… when I had to get up to attend a VE Day event at the Basildon Centre. No rest for the wicked!
And what an amazing forty-eight hours it was. Once news of the exit poll started to filter around the hall, the atmosphere was electrified. It became apparent that months and months of pollsters telling us the GE was too close to call and that you couldn’t put a fag paper between the Tories and Labour was quite simply a load of old hogwash. As it turned out, even the exit poll underestimated the strength of the Tory vote and, to our delight, we crossed the magic threshold with 331 seats, giving us a slim working majority of fifteen seats in the House of Commons and the first majority Conservative Government since Sir John Major in 1992 – albeit with an even slimmer majority than Sir John achieved. Though, bearing in mind, in 1992 the Tories lost forty seats while David Cameron has gained twenty-eight. We have not had a Tory majority since I was fifteen years old, so I am elated.
In terms of our own result locally, I made a few predictions about our local parliamentary seats in the wee small hours of the morning of Polling Day and I am delighted to say that I was vindicated on all three. To nobody’s surprise, Mark Francois was re-elected in Rayleigh & Wickford with a stonking majority of 17,230. Mr Francois, a former Basildon borough councillor, who has served as Armed Forces Minister in the Coalition Government, has since been appointed a Minister of State at the Department for Communities & Local Government in Mr Cameron’s new government.
In the neighbouring constituency of South Basildon & East Thurrock, where some had suggested that Stephen Metcalfe might be vulnerable, this was proved to be entirely unfounded. Steve was comfortably re-elected with a 7,691-vote majority over runner-up Ian Luder (UKIP), having secured an impressive 43% share of the vote. I was delighted by this result as Steve has been an extremely diligent and hard-working MP. I made no prediction for Steve’s neighbour in Thurrock, Jackie Doyle-Price, as her constituency lies outside of the Borough of Basildon – with which I primarily concern myself on this blog – but it is worth pointing out that she was widely tipped to lose her seat to UKIP, hardly surprising as she won the seat from Labour in 2010 with a slim majority of just ninety-two votes and UKIP made significant inroads in Thurrock in last year’s local and European elections, when UKIP’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Tim Aker, was elected an MEP and a Thurrock borough councillor. To have been elected an MP as well would’ve turned Mr Aker from zero to hero. But, to everyone’s delight, Jackie has held on, winning re-election with an increased majority of 536. Readers of my last blog will recall that former Basildon councillor Daniel Munyambu was standing against Miss Doyle-Price in Thurrock as an Independent. He secured just seventy-nine votes and lost his deposit.
I was also particularly pleased, as the news started to trickle into the count hall, that Rebecca Harris had kept Castle Point (another seat we were told was at risk) and that Will Quince had won Colchester for the Tories, unseating Sir Bob Russell, the only Liberal MP in Essex (this was before we knew that the Liberals were being decimated everywhere – who could have known they would be reduced to just eight seats?!).
Finally, the result for Basildon & Billericay was an extremely gratifying win for my candidate, John Baron, was re-elected to serve a fourth term in Parliament with a majority of 12,482 (a slightly increased majority on 2010) and 53% of the popular vote. It was a tremendous privilege to serve as John’s agent and help deliver this result along with the rest of John’s terrific team.
See below for the breakdown of results in the parliamentary elections:
Basildon & Billericay – CON Hold
- John Baron (Conservative) – 22,668 ELECTED*
- Gavin Callaghan (Labour) – 10,186
- George Konstantinidis (UKIP) – 8,538
- Martin Thompson (Liberal Democrat) – 1,636 (lost deposit)
South Basildon & East Thurrock – CON Hold
- Stephen Metcalfe (Conservative) – 19,788 ELECTED*
- Ian Luder CBE (UKIP) – 12,097
- Mike Le-Surf (Labour) – 11,493
- Geoff Williams MBE (Liberal Democrat) – 1,356 (lost deposit)
- Kerry Smith (Independent) – 401 (lost deposit)
- None Of The Above X (Independent) – 253 (lost deposit)
- Stuart Hooper (Independent) – 205 (lost deposit)
Rayleigh & Wickford – CON Hold
- Mark Francois (Conservative) – 29,088 ELECTED*
- John Hayter (UKIP) – 11,858
- David Hough (Labour) – 6,705
- Linda Kendall (Independent) – 2,418 (lost deposit)
- Mike Pitt (Liberal Democrat) – 1,622 (lost deposit)
- Sarah Yapp (Green) – 1,529 (lost deposit)
The results were just as rosy for the Tories locally. Although Basildon Council remains hung, we achieved a clean sweep of the three Billericay and three Wickford seats that were up for grabs, including unseating UKIP’s Nigel Le Gresley in Wickford Castledon. We also did well in the Basildon seats, retaining our seats in Laindon Park and Pitsea South-East. We also came tantilisingly close to winning Nethermayne, being just twenty-seven votes shy of winning the seat. Indeed, in every single seat the Conservatives increased their share of the vote. In total, we won eight out of the fourteen seats up for grabs and secured 43% of the popular vote across the Borough.
See full breakdown below:
Billericay East – CON Hold
- David Dadds (Conservative) – 4,085 (61%) ELECTED*
- John Webb (UKIP) – 1,076 (16%)
- Patricia Reid (Labour) – 878 (13%)
- Nigel Horn (Liberal Democrat) – 704 (10%)
As predicted, no big surprises here and delighted to see my friend and ward colleague David Dadds re-elected with a majority of 3,009 votes. David saw a 10 point swing to the Tories over the Tory candidate in 2014 – some loser named Schrader – and secured 61% of the popular vote in the ward.
Billericay West – CON Hold
- Daniel Lawrence BEM (Conservative) 4,419 (64%) ELECTED*
- Susan McCaffery (UKIP) 1,066 (15%)
- Andrew Ansell (Labour) 978 (14%)
- Alan Richards (Liberal Democrat) 421 (6%)
Likewise, no political earthquakes in neighbouring West ward, where my colleague Danny Lawrence was comfortably re-elected with a majority of 3,353 and a 64% share of the popular vote (though Cllr Dadds did demand a re-count when he heard that Cllr Lawrence had scored a bigger majority and share of the vote than he had). Danny was originally elected in a bye-election to replace the late Stephen Horgan in 2012, serving out the rest of Mr Horgan’s term. With this new mandate, Danny will now serve a full four-year term as Councillor for Billericay West.
Burstead – CON Hold
- Kevin Blake (Conservative) 3,898 (62%) ELECTED*
- Paul Downes (UKIP) 1,156 (19%)
- David Kirkman (Labour) 828 (13%)
- Ben Williams (Liberal Democrat) 362 (6%)
Deputy Leader of Basildon Council Kevin Blake was comfortably re-elected seeing off the challenge from Noak Bridge parish councillor Paul Downes, standing for UKIP.
Fryerns – LAB Hold
- Allan Davies (Labour) 1,832 (34%) ELECTED*
- Cliff Hammans (UKIP) 1,749 (32%)
- Sandra Hillier (Conservative) 1,638 (30%)
- Colin Grant (Liberal Democrat) 169 (3%)
- David Murray (Trade Unionist & Socialist) 58 (1%)
Labour’s Allan Davies was defending his traditionally staunch Labour seat but, as I said in my last blog, UKIP won it last time and it was by no means certain that Cllr Davies would hang on. As it happened, he won a narrow victory by just eighty-three votes. Sandra Hillier fought a plucky campaign for the Tories and, although she finished up third, there were less than two hundred votes between her and Cllr Davies.
Laindon Park – CON Hold
- Andrew Barnes (Conservative) 1,871 (35%) ELECTED*
- Anne Marie Waters (UKIP) 1,668 (31%)
- Stephen Gillan (Labour) 1,408 (27%)
- Francis Barnes-Challinor (Liberal Democrat) 226 (4%)
- Patricia Rackley (Independent) 136 (3%)
Much to everybody’s relief, Andy Barnes successfully defended this seat following the retirement of Jilly Hyde. The Tories have lost this seat every year since 2012, first to Labour and then, last year, to UKIP. I was personally hugely relieved that Andy won the seat, not least because the UKIP candidate, Anne Marie Waters, is a particularly odious character whom I would not have wanted to see sitting in our council chamber. Labour will be particularly worried about this result , as it further cements their status as the third party in Basildon politics. The Laindon Park result also saw the end of the political career of former Labour councillor turned Independent, Pat Rackley, who chose to contest re-election in Laindon Park rather than in her previous St Martin’s ward. Her husband, Phil, remains a St Martin’s ward councillor but the loss of Pat puts an end to Independent Labour as an official group and he will now sit alone.
It is great to welcome Cllr Barnes to the Conservative fold on Basildon Council. He has served previously as a councillor on Adur District Council in West Sussex, so I am sure he will hit the ground running. Will be interesting to see how he copes serving on a council alongside his father-in-law, Cllr Tony Hedley (Con, Billericay West).
Lee Chapel North – LAB Hold
- Alan Bennett (Labour) 1,895 (37%) ELECTED*
- Arthur James (UKIP) 1,825 (36%)
- Nicole Schrader (Conservative) 1,131 (22%)
- Steve Nice (Liberal Democrat) 215 (4%)
With the incumbent Labour councillor, former Council Leader Nigel Smith, having retired, Lee Chapel North saw the return to Council of Alan Bennett, who lost the seat to UKIP just last year. While the Labour Group will doubtless be pleased to have Cllr Bennett back on their benches, they will surely be concerned that even if a ward as traditionally safe as Lee Chapel North, he won by such a slim margin – just seventy votes! Of course, Lee Chapel North was also notable for having by far the sexiest candidate in the form of Nicole Schrader – Tory candidate and, I’m also very happy to say, my gorgeous wife. This is the second time that Nicole has stood in Lee Chapel North and, despite it previously being considered an unassailably safe Labour seat, she secured 22% of the vote – a whopping 15-point swing to the Tories from last time.
Nethermayne – UKIP Gain from Lab
- Stephen Hodge (UKIP) 1,700 (30%) ELECTED*
- Mark Coker (Conservative) 1,674 (29%)
- Andrew Gordon (Labour) 1,518 (27%)
- Phil Jenkins (Liberal Democrat) 618 (11%)
- Pauline Kettle (Independent) 176 (3%)
I predicted that this one could get bloody and I was not disappointed. After several re-counts, the seat was called for UKIP’s Stephen Hodge – husband of UKIP Group Leader Linda Allport-Hodge – with just twenty-six votes over Tory candidate Mark Coker. The incumbent Labour councillor, Andrew Gordon, lost the seat convincingly and the sad degradation of the Liberal Democrats were confirmed as former Nethermayne Lib Dem councillor Phil Jenkins finished up in fourth place in what was previously a Lib Dem stronghold.
Pitsea North-West – UKIP Gain from Lab
- Gary Canham (UKIP) 1,731 (35%) ELECTED*
- Keith Bobbin (Labour) 1,611 (33%)
- Ian Dwyer (Conservative) 1,424 (29%)
- Martin Howard (Liberal Democrat) 149 (3%)
Perhaps the biggest upset for the Labour Group of the evening was the loss of long-serving Labour councillor Keith Bobbin, who saw his 409-vote majority overturned by UKIP newcomer Gary Canham, who beat Mr Bobbin by 120 votes. Our candidate, Ian Dwyer, fought a valiant campaign and achieved a twelve-point swing to the Tories. Mr Bobbin remains an Essex county councillor representing the Pitsea division.
Pitsea South-East – CON Hold
- Amanda Arnold (Conservative) 1,841 (35%) ELECTED*
- Jose Carrion (UKIP) 1,637 (31%)
- David Burton-Sampson (Labour) 1,572 (30%)
- Vivien Howard (Liberal Democrat) 177 (3%)
Amanda Arnold successfully defended former Mayor Mo Larkin’s seat for the Conservatives – again, like Laindon Park, against the odds, given that we have lost the seat at every local election since 2012. Just like her new colleague in Laindon Park, Cllr Arnold should hit the ground running, having been Deputy Leader of Thurrock Council. Labour’s David Burton-Sampson was indeed denied victory again, coming third behind UKIP’s Jose Carrion.
St Martin’s – LAB Hold
- Andrew Buxton (Labour) 1,393 (41%) ELECTED*
- Andrew Morris (UKIP) 955 (28%)
- Stephanie Hedley-Barnes (Conservative) 910 (27%)
- Liz Grant (Liberal Democrat) 130 (4%)
Something of an unknown quantity, as there have been no elections here since 2012 (St Martin’s is only a two-member ward) and the incumbent Independent Labour councillor, Pat Rackley, chose to contest Laindon Park ward instead of St Martin’s. Mrs Rackley had been comfortably re-elected in 2011 as a Labour councillor, seeing off a challenge from some lackluster wet-behind-the-ears Tory candidate named Schrader, but she and her husband fell out with the Labour Group shortly after the 2012 local elections. The then Labour Group Leader, Lynda Gordon, presided over those elections, netting Labour an additional four seats (all gained at the Tories’ expense, including the loss of three Cabinet Members) but that wasn’t enough to save her from the infighting that typically characterises Labour politics and she was knifed in the back by the Labour Group shortly after and replaced with Nigel Smith. Her deputy, Phil Rackley, was also ousted and together with Mrs Gordon, they formed the Independent Labour Group. Mrs Rackley remained with Labour for a while until she was driven out by after a bullying campaign. But things seem to have reverted back to normal as far as this safe Labour seat is concerned and Andrew Buxton was comfortably returned with a majority of 438.
Vange – LAB Hold
- Melissa McGeorge (Labour) 1,289 (36%) ELECTED*
- Michael May (UKIP) 1,136 (32%)
- Tony Ball (Conservative) 1,009 (28%)
- Linda Williams (Liberal Democrat) 110 (3%)
- Samuel Bennett (Trade Unionist & Socialist) 39 (1%)
As with St Martin’s, the incumbent Independent councillor, Daniel Munyambu, was not seeking re-election. Mr Munyambu was elected as a Labour councillor in 2011 with a 535-vote majority but left the Labour Group due to ‘legal issues’ in his native Kenya. Labour’s candidate, Melissa McGeorge, a county councillor for Pitsea, was doubtlessly very keen to take Vange – quite possibly still smarting from her failure to take Pitsea North-West last year. She will have been hoping for an easy win but former Tory Leader of Basildon Council Tony Ball had other ideas. Although the main challenge to Mrs McGeorge clearly came from UKIP, the shock entry into the race of such a high profile Tory candidate certainly seems to have terrified Labour. Nevertheless, Cllr McGeorge was returned but, as their Leader and fellow Vange councillor, Byron Taylor, put it on the night “We won…but you made us work for every vote!”
Wickford Castledon – CON Gain from UKIP
- Don Morris (Conservative) 2,018 (48%) ELECTED*
- Nigel Le Gresley (UKIP) 1,529 (37%)
- Jenefer Taylor (Labour) 641 (15%)
This was perhaps the most dramatic result, as the only seat being defended this time by UKIP. Mr Le Gresley won the seat in a bye-election in 2013 following the sad of death of Tory councillor Sylvia Buckley in what was a fairly devastating loss for the Conservative Group. In addition to the shock of losing what had been a fairly safe Tory seat following such a sad loss to the Conservative Group, by a horrific coincidence the night of the count back in 2013 took place just hours after Malcolm and Sylvia Buckley’s son, Christopher, also passed away. Both Chris and Sylvia died of cancer within weeks of one another, not long after the birth of Chris’ first child. It was an unspeakable tragedy for Malcolm and – though obviously no fault of Mr Le Gresley’s – this was a seat we were powerfully keen to win back. We did just that and it was a particularly sweet victory, seeing the return of ‘The Duke of Wickford’ himself, ‘Papa Don’ Morris. Don lost his Wickford Park seat last year but the battle to re-take Wickford Castledon has given us an opportunity to welcome him back into the Tory fold.
Wickford North – CON Hold
- Michael Mowe (Conservative) 3,128 (48%) ELECTED*
- Eunice Brockman (UKIP) 2,285 (35%)
- Albert Ede (Labour) 1,147 (17%)
Cuddly teddy bear Mike Mowe comfortably retained this traditionally safe Tory seat. Albeit with a reduced majority, he successfully saw off the UKIP threat.
Wickford Park – CON Hold
- Chris Jackman (Conservative) 2,355 (52%) ELECTED*
- Derek Harrison (UKIP) 1,474 (32%)
- Matthew Whaley (Labour) 731 (16%)
Chris Jackman was very comfortably returned this time around, albeit with a reduced majority but on a ten-point swing away from UKIP from the 2014 result that saw Don Morris lose the seat to David Harrison.
Following on from the elections, the Conservative Group held their AGM on Monday 11th May and Cllrs Phil Turner and Kevin Blake were re-elected Leader and Deputy Leader of the Group respectively. We have since learned that Cllr Byron Taylor has stepped down as Leader of the Labour Group and been replaced by their failed parliamentary candidate Cllr Gavin Callaghan. Cllr Taylor is now serving as Labour’s Deputy Leader. This move mirrors what happened when former councillor Nigel Smith retired from the leadership but stayed on as Cllr Taylor’s deputy. Basildon Council will hold its AGM on the 27th May when Cllr Turner will try to move an Order Paper with the Conservative Group, which remains the largest group on the Council, continuing to lead a minority Conservative administration. I’ll be sure to do a write-up of that meeting for this blog.