Published: 08:10, 09 March 2018
Labour secured a shock council by-election victory last night taking a seat from the Conservatives after the resignation of a Tory MP.
Alex Paterson is Medway’s latest councillor after securing the surprise result in the Rochester West by-election.
In a ward seen by many as a Conservative safe seat, the Labour candidate received 1,212 votes, beating nearest rival Alan Kew (Con) by 205. The turnout was 33%.
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The by-election was called following the resignation of Kelly Tolhurst (Con) after she was appointed a government whip in January.
Cllr Paterson said he was convinced Labour could win the seat, even though the ward delivered two Conservative councillors at the last election in 2015.
He said: "It's a fantastic feeling. I knew that when this by-election was called that this was a ward that Labour should absolutely be challenging in and I knew we could win it.
"I'm delighted we have won it, and that's great news for Rochester West who will now have someone standing up for a different set of values than they have had over the past 20 years."
Cllr Paterson has lived in Rochester for 15 years, and spent 20 years as a journalist before starting a new role as a press officer last year.
Speaking after the result was announced, Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett (Con) said he was disappointed but would use it as inspiration to get voters back on side.
He added: "We had a good candidate and fought a decent campaign, but obviously the voters decided they wanted Labour in Rochester West and that gives us a big motivation to win it back next year.
"I'm not sure there is a message from voters. It's just a combination of circumstances – things in central government are difficult, and things in Medway are difficult."
Martin Rose (Lib Dem), who finished, third said: "We have only had a few weeks to get out there. It's been enjoyable meeting people on the campaign.
"It's been a good opportunity to find out what the local issues are, and engage with residents to see how national issues are filtering through too."
Sonia Hyner (Green) said: "We campaigned about the environment, homelessness – which people are very concerned about – and mental health provision at Medway hospital."
But Ukip's vote was in freefall last night. In 2015, its two candidates each polled more than 1,000 votes. The party secured just 104 yesterday, a slide of around 90%.
Before the result was announced, Rob McCulloch Martin (Ukip) said: "I hammered home on topics that people were passionate about. Hopefully the candidate that does win takes on what issues we have raised in our campaign."
Green - Sonia Hyner: 107
Conservatives - Alan Kew: 1,007
Ukip - Rob McCulloch Martin: 104
Labour - Alex Paterson: 1,212
Liberal Democrats - Martin Rose: 119