Analysis: Blues firm up local boroughs

The Conservative groups in both Gosport and Fareham have even stronger hands on the controls of the borough councils following Thursday’s delayed local elections.

In Gosport, the Conservatives took one seat from Labour to increase their overall majority on the borough council to four – 19 Conservative, 14 Liberal Democrat and one Labour councillor.

Across the political boundary in Fareham, the Conservatives gained two seats both from Independent candidates. The composition of the borough council will now be 22 Conservative, four Lib Dems and four Independents – a Tory majority of 14.

The results overall tended to follow the national pattern in England but, as is often the case, local elections produce personal stories and trends that differ from the national picture.

In Gosport, the Conservatives’ share of the total vote went down from 53 percent in 2016 to 49 percent this year.

The Lib Dem surge in the 2018 local elections – when they gained four seats – was not sustained in terms of winning more this year. However, their share of the vote rose from 16 percent in 2016 to 22 percent in 2018 and a sizable increase to 35 percent last Thursday.

This was largely at the expense of Labour. Its shares of the overall vote in Gosport fell from 22 percent in 2018 to 13 percent this time.

Reflecting on the Lib Dem performance its group leader, Councillor Peter Chegwyn, said he was, “pleased with the performance in holding all our seats and in two other seats we were within 45 votes of winning.” These were the seats in Hardway, and Rowner & Holbrook where the Conservative incumbents – Councillors Diane Furlong and Marcus Murphy  – held on.

And to add insult to Labour’s injury, it has been left with one solitary seat on the borough council. The defeat for Labour in Town ward came as Keith Farr stood down and his successor, Christopher Percival, could not hold off the challenge of Conservative candidate Lesley Meenghan.

Friday and Saturday will have been red letter days in this new Conservative councillor’s diary. As the counts were declared, not only was she elected to the borough council but she also became a Hampshire county councillor – one of the councillors for the Leesland and Town division.

The outgoing Leader of the Gosport Conservative group Councillor Mark Hook was, “delighted [the Conservatives] won 11 of the 17 seats” and he singled out Ms Meenghan’s wins for special mention: “It shows that if you work hard in the community, you get the results.”

Mr Hook comfortably held his Alverstoke seat – with 55 percent of the ward vote, though that is significantly lower than the 75 percent share he had in 2016 – but is standing down as Conservative group and council leader. He will become the borough’s Mayor for 2021-22 and told The Globe that as he believes the mayor was, “a non-political role” it would not be right for him to continue in his overtly political positions.

He will be replaced as group leader and council leader by Councillor Graham Burgess who retained his Lee East seat with a 545-vote majority. The deputy group leader and deputy council leader will be elected by the Conservative group on Tuesday.

In Fareham, the Conservatives increased their share of the total borough vote by two percentage points to 56 percent.

However, the underlying story was of the dangers of seeking re-election as an independent candidate having previously been in one of the political parties.

Carolyn Heneghan won one of the Stubbington seats in 2016 – with 35 percent of the vote – when standing as a UKIP candidate. This time she was standing as an independent but ended up fourth with just 6 percent of the vote, well behind the victorious Conservative candidate, Pal Kaur Hayre.

Keith Barton fared little better in Fareham South. He had a 342-vote majority when he won the ward as a Conservative in 2016. He was deselected by the Conservatives this time round and stood as an independent but came third behind the official Conservative candidate, Nick Gregory.

Now the councillors – old and new – will return to the business of running their respective borough councils. But it will only be for one year in Gosport.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has agreed with Gosport Borough Council to redraw some of the ward boundaries and reduce the number of borough councillors from 34 to 28.

This time next year there will be elections for all 28 seats.

Current Council Leader Mr Hook said the reduction in the number of councillors, “will be a saving to the council tax payers but there is a cost to democracy”.

Our Assistant Editor Connor Steel has compiled an overview of all results in Gosport and Fareham, including those in the Hampshire County Council divisions. This information can be seen by clicking: Local Election Results Overview 2021 ,with further details available on ‘Your election results at a glance’ link on the homepage.

By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas / (Photo courtesy of David George)