Twickenham voted. Teddington voted. Richmond voted. Even plucky Whitton voted. After the campaigning, the polling and the counting we can non-exclusively reveal that Richmond Council is now in the control of…..
…. the Liberal Democrats. In a big swing away from the Tories, the Lib Dems have regained Richmond Council and, for the first time, we will see Green Councillors in York House.
In 2010 the Lib Dems lost power to the Conservatives. Four years ago the Tories increased their majority at York House by taking 39 seats compared to just 15 for the Lib Dems. A couple of defections to Labour meant that by polling day LBRuT comprised 37 Tory, 14 Lib Dem and two Labour (and one vacancy). As of May 3rd 2018 the Council now consists of 39 Liberal Democrats, 11 Conservatives and 4 Greens. It’s an important win for the Lib Dems and a huge reverse for the Conservatives. Given that the Greens reached agreement with the Lib Dems not to compete in six wards the turnaround is even more significant. The 25 seat majority is the same as the Conservatives produced in 2014.
“And what of Twickenham?” you cry. The wards of Twickenham Riverside and South Twickenham were both previously blue through and through. These Thames-side wards are closest to the site of the much debated and derided riverside development. Riverside ward went from all blue to all yellow. South Twickenham went from all blue to two yellow and one green.
Nearby, St Margarets and North Twickenham remains yellow, while the previously split wards of West Twickenham and Heathfield both elected three Liberal Democrats. In other words, the Twickenham wards are now all Liberal Democrat with a bonus candidate for the Greens. OK, so you’re asking yourself “Where are the Conservatives?” And the answer is that with the exception of two in Hampton North they’re all on the other side of the river. Council Leader Paul Hodgins (Barnes) retained his seat as did Pamela Fleming (South Richmond). Split borough anyone?
Liberal Democrat leader Gareth Roberts (Hampton) is a dead cert to be the new Council Leader and given the result, he’s got a large pool of councillors to draw on for the various council posts. Presumably the Greens will be rewarded for their support in some way.
Councillor Roberts told Twickerati: “These are amazing results for the borough and for our party. I would like to thank the thousands of residents who have put their trust in my Liberal Democrat team; we will be sure to ensure that trust isn’t misplaced… I said during the campaign that if elected I would request the Chief Executive of LBRuT to place an immediate halt to the Conservatives’ plans for Twickenham Riverside pending a full review of the site and the options. That promise has already been kept. We can do better for local residents; we will do better.” There’s many a local will be pleased to hear that news about the riverside.
So, how much of an election issue was the riverside? It featured heavily on social media but did it translate into votes in the booth? It’s difficult to know. It was never going to be an issue for voters in Barnes and Kew but it was a big issue in Twickenham will definitely have influenced some polling choices. The Lib Dems will now have the tricky task of trying to make good on their election promise to take a wider look at the plan for the whole site and come up with something that better meets the needs of the town. Let’s hope they learn the lessons from the two previous unpopular, abandoned schemes (one Lib Dem and one Tory).
Did national issues play a part too? Perhaps. Or even ‘probably’. Richmond was touted as one borough where the ‘revenge of the remainers’ could put a dent into Tory votes. Kingston is another council tipped as a possible Lib Dem ‘regain’ but has not yet counted. Wandsworth (which shares services with Richmond) remained Conservative but with a reduced majority.
We’ll update this item with more detail but for now, we’ll just let you know that LBRuT, aka El Brute, has gone yellow.
Yes folks, we got a new bunch of Brutes running the show.