COMMENT: Landslide victory for Tories in Horsham’s council elections

Park North, Horsham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin ENGSUS00120121227161019

Park North, Horsham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin ENGSUS00120121227161019

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Not only did new Horsham Conservative MP Jeremy Quin take the parliamentary seat with a huge majority - but there was a landslide victory for his party in the district council elections too.

Tory candidates won 39 of the 44 seats - reducing the Lib Dem opposition to just four councillors - minus their leader and deputy leader.

Even former Tory Roger Arthur who defected to UKIP could not keep his seat, despite some ward hopping and the high profile he was afforded as a parliamentary candidate.

The closest challenge the Tories faced to any of their seats was not from UKIP, the Lib Dems, or Labour, but from the Green Party in Rudgwick, where Graham Avery fell a hundred votes short of unseating incumbent John Bailey.

Friday was a day that belonged entirely to the Conservatives.

It was a strong result that was mirrored elsewhere. In Chichester the Tories gained several seats at the expense of the Lib Dems, while in Crawley Labour held on to the council with the slimmest majority.

Looking at this current political landscape it is hard to believe that in the second half of the 1990s the Lib Dems controlled Horsham District Council and that from 2003-07 they were in touching distance of power.

In Horsham and elsewhere in Sussex, the traditional opposition posed by the Lib Dems looks to have been all but disappeared.

The four Lib Dems who held on to their seats - Christine Costin, David Skipp, Leonard Crosbie, and Godfrey Newman - are all highly regarded as individuals and it was the personal respect for them that must have played no small part in their re-election.

But the results, announced late last night at Bluecoats Sports and Leisure Centre, did not all go the Tories’ way.

Their controversial deputy leader Helena Croft, who was not chosen to continue representing Roffey North by the Horsham Conservative Association, made a second bid by standing for the Arundel and South Downs Association in Henfield.

She was one of the few Tories who was voted out by the public in Thursday’s poll, with popular local independent Mike Morgan taking the seat, succeeding fellow independent Sheila Matthews, who stood down before the elections after 20 years at HDC.

Mrs Croft, rejected first by her peers in Horsham and then the electorate in Henfield, would do well to consider whether politics is the right future for her.

That apart, the Conservatives now have a huge mandate from the public to move forward - although as in the last council, it is likely the real opposition will now exist within their own ranks and there are no alternative political challenges.

Full list of HDC winners.