Saffron Walden election victory a ‘springboard’ for more independents in Uttlesford, say WeAreResidents.org
PUBLISHED: 11:05 03 May 2013 | UPDATED: 11:57 03 May 2013
THE new county councillor for Saffron Walden has called his stunning election victory a “springboard” for an increase in the number of independents representing Uttlesford in local politics.
WeAreResidents.org candidate John Lodge pulled off a huge coup by ousting incumbent Conservative councillor Robert Chambers, who had held the seat for 16 years, by a slim margin of 48 votes.
He told the Reporter overturning the 1,700 majority Mr Chambers held at the previous election in 2009 had “sent a message” to the Tory-run Essex County Council and their Uttlesford district counterparts.
“This is massive for Saffron Walden. That a 2,000 [sic] Tory majority in the fifth safest seat in the county should be so upset with the Conservative control in the whole area that they throw the man out who had been serving them for the past 16 years,” said Mr Lodge, of Common Hill.
“The big national story has been UKIP’s gains but look at this – it’s immense. Looking back three months ago I would have been surprised to take this seat but with every door I knocked on during the campaign my optimism grew.
“My team and I have put in an amazing amount of work and obviously it looks like we put in a bit more than the other parties.”
WeAreResidents.org will now be looking ahead to the elections for Uttlesford District Council in two years’ time and the possibility of standing “a full range of candidates”, according to Mr Lodge.
Asked whether the campaign group’s self-promotion on social network sites Twitter and Facebook had been a big factor in his election victory, the 67-year-old added: “It’s unusual for a start-up organisation like us to have fought such a professional campaign.
“The quality of literature, social media and e-mail communications we have put out has been nothing short of incredible.”
Reflecting on his election defeat, Mr Chambers simply told the Reporter “that’s politics”, before adding “I shall be back”.
“WeAreResidents.org fought on a single issue – housing. That is not a county council responsibility. The Lib Dems disappeared in this district because they concentrated everything in Stansted,” said Mr Chambers, who still has a role in local politics as the cabinet member for finance at Uttlesford District Council.
“But I’ve had a good run of 16 years and I’m very grateful for everyone who has helped me during the election. I’ve still got district level responsibilities, so I will continue to give my full attention and utmost effort to that.”