Richard Willis's Blog

First for local news and first for comment

Reading Local Elections 2012

On Thursday and into the early hours of Friday morning Reading’s politicians gathered at the Rivermead leisure centre to watch the ballot boxes come in from the polling stations and be counted. After weeks of door knocking and delivering leaflets with our respective messages on them we were all keen to see what the public made of our campaigns.

After six weeks of chaos at the heart of the national government and the consequent slide in our opinion poll ratings I was expecting a difficult night. On arrival I chatted to two former Labour Councillors and caught up with others who I see at the annual election count. It was good to see that the atmosphere between the parties was generally good humoured. I spent much of the time watching the Church ward count and chatting to both my colleague Azam Janjua and the Labour ward Councillor. I understand that there was one incident when a Labour activist was unpleasant to a Lib Dem but that seemed to be the exception last night.

The highlight of the night for me was the result in Peppard ward. Jane Stanford-Beale is a first class candidate who has put in a huge amount of hard work, speaking to residents and delivering election literature. She will make an excellent local Councillor and she thoroughly deserved to win. She put up with the appalling negative campaign fought by the embittered Independent candidate without complaining and without responding publicly. Despite some of the worst lies and unfounded allegations I have ever seen in any election literature, her team did not descend to that level when occasionally questioned on the doorstep. We focussed on promoting Jane and left the mud-slinging to the Independent campaign. I will write more in due course but for now let me just say that there was no truth whatsoever in the many allegations of “vendettas”, “conspiracies” or “cabals”. What we saw was a ranting and embittered man who rather than focussing on the needs and ambitions of the people he sought to represent, instead focussed on his own sense of grievance and distorted view of those who had supported him and helped elect him previously. The margin of over 300 votes, despite a low turnout and difficult national picture was a credit to Jane and all of the hard-working team who supported her.

I campaigned mainly in Peppard, Caversham and Church wards and it was clear that many people were voting (or not voting) based on national issues. The main issues which came up were pensions and the Budget. It would be fair to say that rarely has a national Government done so much to handicap its own candidates in an important set of local elections!

In Reading as a whole the picture was of very low turnouts as Conservative and Lib Dem voters stayed at home. Labour gained seats but can claim little credit as their vote dropped in most wards as well, even where they won. The most significant statistical thing to note was that the Greens overtook the Lib Dems to become the third party in the town. Both parties elected a single Councillor but the Greens scored 3,757 votes compared to the Lib Dems’ 3,403 votes. In many wards the LDs were in last place on fewer than 100 votes: in Whitley they came sixth with just 57 votes behind the Common Sense Party, Independent and Green candidates!

I was very sad to lose good colleagues and friends in Azam Janjua, Emma Warman and Dave Luckett but we gain some very effective new blood in Jane Stanford-Beale and Ed Hopper. I look forward to working with them to hold the now majority Labour administration to account.

The summary across the Borough was:

Abbey: Labour hold – Lab 1,140, Cons 354, G 230, LD 135, CSP 87 (T/O 20.2%)

Battle: Labour hold – Lab 1,015, Cons 522, G 158, LD 106 (T/O 24.7%)

Caversham: Labour gain from Conservative – Lab 1,258, Cons 880, G 265, LD 168 (T/O 34.9%)

Church: Labour gain from Conservative – Lab 1,029, Cons 700, G 134, LD 94, CSP 79 (T/O 25.4%)

Katesgrove: Labour gain from Lib Dem – Lab 890, LD 257, Cons 237, G 157, Ind 42 (T/O 22.2%)

Kentwood: Labour gain from Conservative – Lab 1,052, Cons 796, G 144, CSP 126, LD 121 (T/O 30%)

Mapledurham: Conservative hold – Cons 695, Lab 136, LD 111, G 103 (T/O 41.4%)

Minster: Labour hold – Lab 1,351, Cons 600, LD 164, G 162 (T/O 29.4%)

Norcot: Labour hold – Lab 1,378, Cons 400, G 117, LD 96 (T/O 26.7%)

Park: Green gain from Labour – G 1,246, Lab 1,094, Cons 279, LD 54 (T/O 35.1%)

Peppard: Conservative regain from Independent – Cons 1,090, Ind 789, Lab 434, LD 294, G 210 (T/O 37.4%)

Redlands: Labour gain from Lib Dem – Lab 1,032, LD 425, Cons 273, G 251 (T/O 26%)

Southcote: Labour hold – Lab 1,364, Cons 478, LD 142, G 112 (T/O 32.3%)

Thames: Conservative hold – Cons 1,266, Lab 625, Ind 322, G 311, LD 282 (T/O 38.1%)

Tilehurst: Lib Dem hold – LD 897, Cons 604, Lab 510, UKIP 220, G 89 (T/O 32.1%)

Whitley: Labour hold – Lab 1,144, Cons 318, CSP 99, Ind 82, G 68, LD 57 (T/O 21.6%)

The Council composition is now – Labour 26, Conservative 12, Lib Dem 4, Green 3, Independent 1

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May 5, 2012 - Posted by | Local |

7 Comments »

  1. Richard.

    I cannot see how you can derive much comfort from the results on Thursday 3rd May 2012.

    Firstly, despite a spurious accusation of “dog whistle racism” against Labour in Church, Eileen Mc Elligott WON that seat quite comfortably for them. In addition you lost Kentwood and Caversham and I bet the latter stung being a North of the Thames ward, but did you not have the compensatory gain of Tilehurst from the Lib-Dems as occurred in May 2011. Not knowing all the background I cannot comment on the Peppard result save to say that personally I feel a bit sorry for the defeated former Councillor thereof. Perhaps all the objective facts behind his de-selection will come into the Public Domain one day? In any event 789 Peppard Ward electors obviously thought he was some good and voted for him.

    Reading’s results seem to mirror those throughout England and I would assume are more the electorate punishing Cameron and Osborne and the Conservatives (and Lib-Dems) for The Cuts, Austerity, Granny Tax, Pasty Tax, Rising Unemployment, etc than any love for Labour as such and some floating voters will have changed from Tory or Lib-Dem to Labour rather than the Tories merely staying at home . I do hope that ex-Councillors Luckett and Warman were satisfied by Cameron’s apology to them and other defeated Tory Councillors on the TV yesterday.

    It is fortunate that next year is, AFAIK, a Fallow Year with no Local Election in Reading and by 2014 matters MAY have got better and there is also the enhanced turn-out of having the Euro Elections on the same day which may help to get out the Vote.

    Thursday 3rd May 2012 was Labour’s day and it would be most churlish not ot congratulate them and their new Councillors on their success. For my part I was glad that Boris Johnson held on as Mayor of London instead of Livingstone..

    Finally it is interesting to see that the former Labour MP for Reading West , Martin Salter, is back on the scene. Will there be a Salter V Sharma contest at the next General Election I wonder? If so I’d put my money on Martin wining the seat.

    Comment by Steve Foley | May 5, 2012 | Reply

  2. There were a number of incidents with Reading Labour’s thugs being aggressive to Lib Dems – Jan Gavin also behaved pretty despicably (not for the first time). Like you, though, I had a decent number of chats with the decent people in all parties. Labour could do with a cleaning of the stables if they are not to further cement their reputation in Reading for thuggery.

    Comment by Gareth Epps | May 5, 2012 | Reply

  3. I see things haven’t changed much then with Labour in Reading since I was elected a Conservative Councillor for Kentwood in 1991

    Comment by Mark Anderson | May 5, 2012 | Reply

  4. 789 is a heel of a big vote for an independant and it is difficult to see how you can put a gloss on that other than the fact that he didn’t win. Obviously I don’t know the ins and outs of the reasons for his ‘failure to be re-selected’ , but it is without doubt that the Conservatives may have fared better in other wards if you and others had not been busy campaigning in a safe seat ! Add to this the fact that the public don’t like splits in parties and the fact that , as you state, many people vote on national issues.
    Steve, I can’t see Martin returning . When I spoke to him he seemed very pleased to be away from the ‘front line’ of politics.

    Comment by Howard Thomas | May 5, 2012 | Reply

  5. Howard, I reckon he would win back Reading West for Labour if he did and three years is a long time.

    Comment by Steve Foley | May 11, 2012 | Reply

  6. Steve ….I suspect you are right that he could,….but I doubt he will

    Comment by Howard Thomas | May 13, 2012 | Reply

    • He did say the same to me when I saw him a few months back but things can change over time. In any event Labour needs to chose its candidate soon and work the Constituency as it needs to win it to be the next Government and it is no use parachuting some hapless guy from Waltham Forest in this time but a well know Local with a connection to Reading is what is needed, maybe one of their Councillors?

      Comment by Steve Foley | May 13, 2012 | Reply


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