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Tories sweep Lib Dems away MailMarks

MAIDSTONE Conservatives’ election victory to win back full control of the borough council was stunning. No one could read the outcome in our

nely-balanced council and as Maidstone electors have a long history of conservation (with a small ‘c’), another hung council seemed likely.

The controlling Liberal Democrats had a reputation for performing well above their weight. But not this time. The Tories gained ve seats, retained seven and made other inroads, turning wards they did lose in to marginals. There are now 29 Tories, 17 Lib Dems and nine others. I cannot recall the Lib Dems losing before their stronghold Allington ward. And man-in-the-hot-seat, Lib Dem and council leader Martin Cox, defending a 523 majority in East ward, went through the dramas of seven recounts before he was declared winner by just 15 votes. It all went against the trend in south- east England, too, where the Lib Dems performed quite strongly compared with the rest of the country. So why did it go so well for the Tories and so wrong for the Lib Dems? I think the Maidstone electorate became disenchanted with local Lib Dems, the Tories were much better organised and the national Boris Bounce played a part here, too. An ecstatic Andrea Thorpe, chairman of Maidstone and The Weald Conservative Association, is full of praise for Andrew Kennedy, the talented and hard-working agent for several constituencies of Kent Conservative Group, based in Paddock Wood. And this praise extends to many candidates “who really put their backs into it”. She said several were very young but experts in communicating with voters via social media. She exampled Will Dinley, who took on at the last minute a big Lib Dem majority in South Ward and lost by only 73 votes. “He cannot wait to continue working and ght again next time,” she said proudly.


Why did Maidstone become disenchanted with the Lib Dems? There are many reasons. Most signicant is the way Maidstone borough has evolved in recent years. Our

Thanks for support

I JUST wanted to thank you for your support for my benches project. Readers might remember that you

published an online shout-out for places to put "connect benches" which bear a plaque and a QR code linked to a website offering support services to help with personal issues, such as redundancy. I couldn't believe it when someone called me! I had some great results as a


council has no control over the number of new houses demanded in the borough by Government, but it does decide where they go and should be inuential over supporting infrastructure. Locating this massive housing programme is a tough challenge and there will always be strong local opposition. Few can believe what is happening along Sutton Road especially – and the huge Church Road, Otham, estate seems an unbelievable inclusion in our local plan.

The garden villages proposed for Lenham Heath and Lidsing are also being noisily opposed in and around these two areas. With Lenham being driven controversially by the council itself, the heavy ak keeps ying. The Lib Dems were right in the ring line. But many Tories also see merit in well-located large villages built with their own infrastructure and amenities. They would be wonderful places to live. And if they do not consume around 6,000 houses, watch them spread all over our cherished countryside without adequate infrastructure.

Opponents see the Lenham Heath proposal too officer-led in the council, a charge with wider implications against the Lib Dems. Elected councillors must be seen to be in control through close liaison with officers and nal committee decision-making.

Infrastructure is largely down to working with and persuading Kent County Council. Maidstone has missed out on meaningful roads, and friction between the Conservative-led KCC and Maidstone Lib Dems is a problem. It did not help when Maidstone took a judicial review case against KCC – and subsequently stepped back. Taxpayers complained of wasting their money on the review – and there have been other examples. The highest prole was Kent and Maidstone spending almost overnight, without consultation,

result of the publicity you gave to this cause. I will keep you updated with news of how the project is going. Contact Mark Allan, Maidstone

Boris’s Churchillian action

I AM sure that Sir Winston Churchill would have acted as decisively in the war against the Coronavirus in order to save

£100,000 of Government money installing a cycle lane in town centre King Street. Taxi drivers turned up to nd their parking bay had disappeared. A new traffic bottleneck was born. The public outcry was immense and within months it was removed. The total cost was around £150,000.

COVID-19 problems seriously reduced council income and the council planned a small saving by mothballing the Hazlitt Theatre. Residents saw this as a serious threat to a much-loved theatre, especially at panto time, and a public outcry led by the Downs Mail forced an early change of heart by the council. But at a time when the council was spending heavily on properties this left an unpleasant smell.

There have been other council issues which have not gone down well publicly and in the end they mounted up to the biggest protest of all – at this month’s elections. It is massive – and recovery for the Lib Dems will be a challenge they will not easily meet.

Learn the lessons

Everything will depend on the Conservatives learning from these mistakes and winning condence of the people of Maidstone. It is no easy task – most challenges are still there, of course. As they take them on their public presentation must rise to the occasion. Certainly, they should work much

better with KCC as they wave a blue ag together. They will be helped with four of their councillors now also serving as county councillors. Paul Cooper and Gary Cooke – experienced and inuential county councillors – are joined by Simon Webb, newly elected to both roles, and Lottie Partt-Reid, who has added KCC to her portfolio.

Both Gary and Simon won Maidstone

wards (Shepway South and Coxheath and Hunton) gained by the Tories and Paul had a thumping success in Shepway North. Paul and Gary combined to invest in a series of pre-election announcements in Downs Mail advertising and it obviously paid off!

Maidstone has spoken and the message

is very clear. Now it is for Conservatives to deliver.

many lives by using plain common sense, as Boris did. Just as the great man did so by

employing Lord Beaverbrook to make sure the country had the munitions and machinery that was needed to survive the war at the most critical time, so the Prime Minister employed Sir James Dyson to provide ventilators, and who, of course, got the job done and saved many lives. It seems that it was achieved not as the



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