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Live at the count: Kent County Council by-election for Canterbury North

By Anna MacSwan

The Conservatives have held the Canterbury North division following a by-election - with Labour pushed into third.

Robert Thomas, who is also a city councillor, picked up 42% of the votes to take the seat, which was left vacant following the sad death of John Simmonds in August.

Labour candidate Ben Hickman was tipped to run the Tories close, but his 660 votes were only good enough for third.

Returning officer Colin Carmichael announces the result at the Canterbury North by-election count gets underway in the Westgate Hall on Friday. Picture: Chris Davey. (5462544)
Returning officer Colin Carmichael announces the result at the Canterbury North by-election count gets underway in the Westgate Hall on Friday. Picture: Chris Davey. (5462544)

Lib Dem Alex Lister polled second with 756, with little between those in fourth to sixth: Henry Stanton (Green), Joe Egerton (Ind) and Joe Simons (Ukip), who picked up 157, 155 and 120 votes respectively.

Despite the Tory hold, ex-Conservative Joe Egerton says the 42% share of the vote, down from 55% last year, is “bad news” for the party.

However, with all of the uncertainty at No.10, the Tories have kept their seat with ease.

Newly-elected Cllr Thomas said: "There was clearly a lot going on nationally yesterday but that doesn't seem to have translated into the election."

Cllr Ian Thomas congratulates his son Robert after his election at the Canterbury North by-election count gets underway in the Westgate Hall on Friday. Picture: Chris Davey. (5462582)
Cllr Ian Thomas congratulates his son Robert after his election at the Canterbury North by-election count gets underway in the Westgate Hall on Friday. Picture: Chris Davey. (5462582)

"It is absolutely fantastic that the voters of Canterbury North have put their trust in me.

"I've been working hard in particular since 2011 in my time on the [city] council, but I'm not just about politics, I volunteer for the local RSPCA and Active Life and I think people recognise the hard work I do put in, and that's exactly what I'm going to be doing going forward," the 36-year-old finance manager, who works at Chaucer College, continued.

Hopes that a surge in student voter registrations could cause a shock result were dashed when turnout at Senate House, the polling station for University of Kent halls, proved disappointingly low yesterday.

Meanwhile Lib Dem candidate Alex Lister said that with the seat being a target for both the Conservatives and Labour, coming second showed his party couldn't be "written off".

He put his success down to the party's ground effort in the run-up to the vote, saying: "Labour have a much bigger group of supporters who are out campaigning for them.

"We have a small number of canvassers, but they work damn hard. We have done something to be proud of."

LIVE

11.47am

Cllr Thomas says he isn’t someone who believes in “safe seats” and that he is “ecstatic” voters have put their trust in him

11.46am

11.34am

11.30am

The final results

Robert Thomas (Con) - 1,355

Alex Lister (Lib Dems) - 756

Ben Hickman (Lab) - 660

Henry Stanton (Green) - 157

Joe Egerton (Ind) - 155

Joe Simons (Ukip) - 120

11.19am

11.18am

10.56am

10.44am

10.38am

Heavy speculation of a Conservative victory for Robert Thomas.

10.18am

10.09am

Ben Hickman also says he has the impression “lots of Tories are now less hardened Tories” on issues ranging from Brexit to hospital and bus services.

10.01am

9.51am

John Simmonds swept to victory at last year's elections, securing a big majority with 55% of the votes.

John Simmonds (Con) 2,321

Ben Hickman (Lab) 700

Daniel Prevett (Lib Dem) 699

Andrew Goatly (Green) 287

Trevor Dockwray (Ukip) 240

9.40am

We're at the Westgate Hall in Canterbury this morning as the votes are counted in the Canterbury North by-election. The runners and riders are: Robert Thomas (Con), Ben Hickman (Lab), Joe Simons (Ukip), Alex Lister (Lib Dem), Henry Stanton (Green), and Joe Egerton (Ind).

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