First the result:-
So, Jonathan Pritchard was elected in a tight race. UKIP ran an campaign that, though negative and uninformed had a significant effect winning 7.5% of the vote.
The great surprise was the LibDems. I was taken aback by their newsletters which were cynical and negative. Despite running the Borough for 22 years, they resorted to personal attacks and failed to demonstrate any track record of success in that time. Instead they promised to tackle crime in Cheam despite regularly telling councillors and residents that Cheam had very little crime. They even started to steal some of the campaigning techniques from UKIP with some of the UKIP headlines being repeated word for word in the LibDem Focus. My surprise came from how clearly they demonstrated that they were living off their successes in the 1990s, with no new ideas for the Borough.
I could only agree with several women that I spoke to throughout the campaign who felt patronised by the claim that they should vote for Wendy Mathys because Cheam already had two male councillors and they didn’t need a third. So much for the best man (or woman) winning. I would like to see the councillors being broadly representative of the community in which they live but quotas and female chauvinism is really not the way to go to acheive this.
Paul Burstow MP must be concerned with the result. He allied himself very closely to the LibDem candidate but could not swing any extra votes. Midway through the campaign he rediscovered the art of communication using House of Commons headed paper to write unsolicited mail to residents. I’m sure his local electorate will take a dim view of using parliamentary stationary to influence a council election whether or not he paid for it himself. Maybe he hasn’t noticed the media coverage about MPs using parliamentary resources for their own ends.
Cheam has the lowest Labour vote of any ward in London, so this was never to be a happy hunting ground for them. Nonetheless they sought to ask questions of residents to debate local issues. It was an interesting tack and deserved a few more votes from the LibDems for being positive.
As for us, we picked three main themes, crime, planning and council tax. Our campaign was positive, though taking the LibDems to task where necessary. Unlike their campaign we played the ball, not the man to take a footballing analogy. It has been a hard slog for the last few weeks. We did not take a single vote for granted despite the misquote in the Sutton Advertiser and I’m really pleased that Jonathan came out as the worthy winner. He will be an asset to the residents of Cheam and he will be an asset to the Conservative Group as we look to build on this in order to win the election in 2010 when we can really effect the change required to make Sutton a better place to live.