Published: 17:46, 05 May 2017
The Conservatives have swept to victory in the county council election as rival parties fell away and Ukip lost every single seat that it had won in 2013.
The outcome marked a remarkable win for the Conservatives and indicates that the party is on course for a comprehensive victory in the general election.
At the end of the day, the Conservatives won 67 of the 81 seats up for grabs, giving the party a record-breaking margin of victory.
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Ukip had a disastrous result, losing every one of the 17 seats it had won in 2013 and leaving questions about its long-term future as a party.
Labour had an equally uncomfortable day at the polls, seeing its 13 seats culled to just six, and losing its leader Gordon Cowan in the process.
The Liberal Democrats had mixed results and there was no evidence to suggest that it is seeing a resurgence in support.
Although it emerged as the official opposition, it did so with just six seats - one fewer than it secured in 2013.
Cllr Rob Bird, who was re-elected as councillor for Maidstone Central, said the party had been squeezed by the Conservatives.
“The announcement of a general election did not help us and our vote did get affected by Conservatives who had heeded Theresa May’s appeal for a strong mandate. But we are moving in the right direction,” he said.
Cllr Paul Carter was jubilant, saying that the margin of victory was attributable to the policies of Theresa May.
“Obviously it is a clear endorsement of the direction of travel that she is taking, with the very strong stance she is taking on the Brexit negotiations. And it is her policies to help everyone which is my sort of politics.”
He said that most people expected Ukip's vote to full but not quite on the scale that it did.
“We didn't expect to see the annihilation that has gone on I don't think people expected to see the kind of meltdown that has gone on.”
He understood that people were sometimes concerned when one party was so dominant but insisted that the council would be held to account.
And he promised that the council would stand up to the government when it was in the interest of Kent, citing the concerns he had already raised about changes to school funding as an example.
“I have been very vocal on that and will continue to be so until the issues have been resolved .”
And he dropped a tantalising hint that after serving as leader for so many years he was contemplating a time when he might stand down.
“The response we got on the doorstep was the best I have seen in 40 years.”
Asked if he intended to go on, he said: “I review it year by year and I certainly intend to go before I am pushed and won't overstay my welcome but there is a big agenda ahead and I intend to be here for some time to come.”
While there was bad news for some of the main parties there was a success for Green Party candidate Martin Whybrow, who won the Hythe division.
Another casualty was Ukip leader of Thanet council Chris Wells, who was hoping to return to County Hall for Cliftonville. His last stint was under Conservative colours.
Mr Wells lost to Conservative Lesley Game who secured 2679 votes compared to his 648.
He said: "I don't regret my move from Conservative to Ukip in the slightest.
"I've had a really wonderful two and a half years and another two years before the district council is up for election.
"We've still got a lot of time to make some of the changes this area needs and I will work with Lesley Game and the Conservatives to make sure that happens.
"I've still got a district council to run, the only Ukip controlled one in the country, and we've got to make that a success."
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