Liberal Democrats unseat Conservatives in South Northamptonshire by-election

Mark Allen has won the Middleton Cheney by-election.
Mark Allen has won the Middleton Cheney by-election.

The Liberal Democrats have gained a seat from the Conservatives in a by-election in Middleton Cheney.

Mark Allen has now been elected to South Northamptonshire Council after gaining 384 votes yesterday (September 12), which was 44 per cent of those cast. He narrowly saw off the challenge from Tory candidate Alison Eastwood, who received 345 votes.

Adam Sear (Green Party) came third with 89, while Labour’s Arthur Greaves polled last with just 59 votes.

The by-election was sparked after the resignation of Conservative councillor Jonathan Riley, who had only been a councillor for just over a year having won a by-election of his own last April aged just 20. He had beaten Mr Allen by just over 70 votes after the retirement of his Conservative colleague Judith Baxter.

But the narrow swing was enough for Mr Allen - who is a resident of the village and is already a parish councillor - to seal victory at the second attempt. As a result, he will become the sixth Liberal Democrat member of the council.

And he believes that the vote was a reflection on how the Conservative party had run the majority of local councils across Northamptonshire, in particular the county council.

He said: “I’m very pleased to have been elected and wish to thank those who voted for me. However, I will be working hard for everyone in my ward, irrespective of who they voted for. I’d also like to thank all those local Lib Dem members who helped in my campaign. We are winning across South Northamptonshire and are getting ready for the general election and unitary council campaigns.

“On the doorstep people told me they were appalled at how disastrously the failed Conservatives have been running Northamptonshire. The Conservatives have bankrupted our county, resulting in all existing district and borough councils being replaced by two unitary councils in 2021.”

The Conservative leader of South Northamptonshire Council, Councillor Ian McCord, said it was ‘disappointing’ for his party to lose a seat, but that it was a wider reflection of the ‘political melee that we are currently in’.

His party will still command a very large majority, and asked whether the county council’s performance had impacted on the vote, he said: “I’m sure there was an element of that without doubt. But he’s been elected to South Northamptonshire Council, not the county council.

“It’s difficult, because I think issues can be manufactured when they are not issues that you can attack South Northamptonshire Council about. But the Lib Dems are free to run their campaign how they see fit. I think they felt they would walk it when the election was called, but it was only a narrow win for them. It was a narrow win last time for us, and a narrow defeat this time, so it shows that it’s fine margins.”

The margin of victory will not matter to the Lib Dems however, whose leader Councillor Chris

Lofts said: “Mark will make an excellent SNC councillor and be an effective voice for his area.

“This election shows the importance of tactical voting. The most effective way to beat the Conservatives here in South Northamptonshire, is to vote Liberal Democrat.”