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Blue rinse for Tories as Lib-Dems regain Gosport

By The Editor

IT’S been a long time coming but Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Peter Chegwyn has finally achieved his goal by taking back control of Gosport Borough Council from the Conservatives.

After a count at Gosport Leisure Centre that lasted almost seven hours yesterday, Friday, the result was decisive. With boundaries redrawn across revamped wards, the slimmed down council now consists of 16 Lib-Dems, 10 Tories and two Labour councillors.

And the truly blue casualties included three former mayors and a retired police sergeant who had prioritised tackling anti-social behaviour across the town centre during her time in office.

Ecstatic Liberal Democrat candidates had been predicting the outcome ever since the ballot boxes were opened. But Mr Chegwyn – who takes over from Councillor Graham Sturgess as Leader of Gosport Borough Council – waited until the last seats were being declared in the late afternoon before claiming victory.

He told the Globe: “It is the first time that the Liberal Democrats will have run the town with an overall majority for 25 years.”

Although 10 long-standing Conservative councillors retain their seats in traditionally safe wards, the turnaround came as a major blow to their defeated colleagues – particularly former mayors Lynn Hook, Diane Furlong and Kath Jones.

Bitterly disappointed Mrs Hook, who had represented Peel Common for 12 years, remained philosophical, telling supporters: “As one door closes, another one opens. Her departure from the council chamber sees the end of a family connection dating back several decades.

Husband Mark, who stepped down as Leader last year before donning the mayoral chain of office, leaves politics later this month when his term as First Citizen ends. Daughter Natasha, standing in Elson, was also among the losing candidates.

In the run-up to Thursday’s elections, several lifelong Conservatives had told the Globe that they would be voting for Mr Chegwyn’s team because it was time for a change at the Town Hall.

But unsuccessful Tory candidate Sue Desbois said many Forton residents she had spoken to while campaigning cited Boris Johnson’s ‘Partygate’ scandal and a consequent lack of trust in the party leadership as the main reason for switching their votes.

Both the ward’s seats went to Liberal Democrats Peter Chegwyn and Mervin Bradley. Labour had mixed fortunes and although missing out narrowly in Grange and Alver Valley, there was some consolation when stalwart Alan Durrant joined Councillor June Cully in Town and Harbourside, doubling the party’s presence on the council by taking police veteran Leslie Meenaghan’s seat.

WE’LL MEET AGAIN: Upbeat Labour candidate Hilary Percival, who narrowly lost out to Tory Councillor Tony Jessop, pictured right, tells supporters that she will be back to build on an increased share of the vote. Photograph by Holly Mason