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Tory triumph in Kingstanding by-election sends shock waves through Labour establishment

Tory triumph in Kingstanding by-election sends shock waves through Labour establishment

🕔14.Feb 2014

The Conservative Party has pulled off one of Birmingham’s most audacious political coups in recent years by winning a city council seat in the Labour heartland of Kingstanding.

Gary Sambrook triumphed in a by-election with a seven per cent swing against his Labour opponent Lorraine Owen to give the ward its first Tory councillor since 1968.

And with Ed Miliband due in Birmingham today, the embarrassment could hardly be greater.

Mr Miliband had been expected triumphantly to introduce Labour’s new councillor in Kingstanding.

It is thought highly unlikely now that he will refer to the crushing defeat at all.

Sambrook, who had contested the seat seven times before without success, was born and brought up in Kingstanding, where he still lives. His huge personal vote saw him home with 1,571 votes to 1,433 for Ms Owen – a majority of 138 with a 19 per cent turnout.

Sambrook took 47 per cent of the vote and Labour 43 per cent. When the seat was contested in 2012, Sambrook picked up 40 per cent and Labour’s Catharine Grundy managed 50 per cent.

It was Cllr Grundy’s surprise decision last month to resign mid-way through her term of office that forced the by-election.

Labour might reflect on the wisdom of city council leader Sir Albert Bore announcing his budget on the eve of the by-election – £85 million of cuts, 1,000 jobs axed and a two per cent council tax rise.

Party chiefs may also now regret selecting Ms Owen, who does not live in Kingstanding.

Although her home of Kitts Green is hardly a million miles away, these things sometimes matter in the parochial world of Birmingham politics. In any event, the Tories promoted Sambrook as a local lad at every possible opportunity.

The defeat represents a dreadful disaster for Labour, given that the party poured resources into the by-election. It is a crushing embarrassment for Erdington MP Jack Dromey, who was at the forefront of campaigning.

But Sambrook’s victory did not come as a total surprise. He had been getting closer and closer to winning in recent years and Labour leaders knew they had a tough fight on their hands.

All of Labour’s 76 city councillors were requested to canvass in the ward, with council leader Sir Albert Bore participating in door-knocking duties in the latter stages of the campaign.

Sambrook’s victory would appear to underline the value of hard work at grass roots level. The Tory tactics of leafleting, door-knocking and canvassing pretty much week in week out has seen the party make inroads into Labour territory throughout the Erdington constituency. Woe betide the party – any party – that takes for granted victory in its ‘safe’ seats.

Writing on his Facebook account, Sambrook said: “Well, we finally done it! Thanks to everyone who supported me by voting or campaigning over the last eight years. My long suffering family and friends have been a rock, and I’m truly amazed by the result. Can only promise that I will do my best.”

If Labour had wanted to take note of an example from their own side, they only had to look at the victory in 2012 for Dr Rob Pocock in the Tory stronghold of Sutton Vesey. Pocock also spent years building up the Labour vote before finally overturning a Conservative councillor.

The full Kingstanding result is as follows:

Party Candidate Votes Vote % Change
Conservative Gary   Sambrook 1,571 47.0% +7.3%
Labour Lorraine   Owen 1,433 42.8% -6.9%
UKIP Roger   Tempest 266 7.9% +7.9%
Lib   Dems Graham   Lippiatt 43 1.3% -0.7%
National   Front Terry   Williams 33 1.0% +0.2%


Cover Image: Erdington Conservatives

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