Election 2013: MP blames ‘Nigel Farage effect’ as Tory seats fall to UKIP in Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury

The election count at Bury Leisure Centre.

The election count at Bury Leisure Centre. - Credit: Archant

DAVID Ruffley said the Prime Minister must “take the message” from local election results that have seen the Tories lose four seats to UKIP in west Suffolk.

Although the Conservatives remain the largest party in the region and made a gain in the Hardwick division of St Edmundsbury, many admitted to being shocked at crushing defeats in Brandon, Forest Heath and Haverhill East and Kedington.

Seven Conservatives, two UKIP, two independents and one Green were elected to the county council in St Edmundsbury.

In Forest Heath three, Conservatives and two UKIP were elected.

Speaking at the count in Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre, David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, said people in Suffolk had used the ballot box to make a national point.

He added: “I know from knocking on doors last week that UKIP have done well, but not by campaigning on local issues at all.

“I didn’t meet a single voter who had spoken to a UKIP candidate, which tells you something.

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He added: “This is the first local election since I’ve been MP where candidates like UKIP have done well without talking about local issues and knocking on doors.

“There has been a ‘Farage effect’. People have used the ballot box in Suffolk to make a national point and the national point they are making is that David Cameron is not clear enough about where he is taking this country.

“David Cameron is an intelligent guy and he will take the message from local results.”

Mr Ruffley said: “The results tell us UKIP is not just a protest vote, it’s a protest vote that can win seats. We’ve got a fight on our hands. I’m genuinely shocked that UKIP have won so many seats in the west Suffolk area.”

Tony Brown of UKIP seized the former Tory seat of Haverhill East And Kedington with 788 votes, compared to Conservative Alaric Pugh’s 504. He said he was “overwhelmed” that people had supported his campaign.

The 53-year-old, who runs his own business, added: “I think the rest of the main parties no longer represent what normal people want in this country.

“This is a massive day for Suffolk politics.”

UKIP’s Reg Silvester won 45.92% of the vote in the Brandon division of Forest Heath, taking the seat from the Conservatives. Former councillor Bill Bishop did not contest his seat but party colleague Stephen Edwards could only poll just over 30% to come in second place.

Mr Silvester said: “UKIP are saying what people expect from us. We just need to run our country to suit the British people. I have got one or two local issues that I’m very concerned about. Country-wide, I’m concerned about the healthcare that’s available and the cuts they are making – and they are some vicious cuts and I’m not sure they are being made in the right places.

“The county issues are about infrastructure and the infrastructure here is weak because of immigration.”

David Hudson of UKIP won the Exning and Newmarket seat, which had been held by Conservative Bill Sadler.

Mr Hudson picked up just over 30% of the vote and is one of two UKIP representatives to win seats in the Forest Heath District.

When asked about which local issues and policies he was keen to see changed, he said there were “so many, I can’t think at the moment”.

He added: “I’m very pleased, the election campaign went very well indeed and I’m very pleased to get the seat, no doubt. People are coming over to us, no doubt about it. People like our policies. I represent Newmarket and Exning and will do my very best for them, as well as other thing that I might have to vote on and take part in for the good of the county.

“I think there are quite a lot of changes needed.”

Julian Flood of UKIP took a seat away from the Conservatives in Haverhill Cangle after two recounts, with 1,098 votes.

Anne Gower, who recorded 1,269 votes held one seat for the Tories, while Conservative Karen Richardson bagged 1,082 votes - the same as Labour candidate Maureen Byrne.

Mr Flood said he would be campaigning against wind turbines.

Another Conservative seat disappeared in the Tower, St Edmundsbury.

In what was the very last Suffolk division to be announced Tory Robert Everitt - standing in place of Stefan Oliver - finished in third place behind residing Green, Mark Ereira and Independent David Nettleton.

Mr Ereira, who recorded 1,481 votes and saw his majority slightly increase, said: “The dream of a Green and Independent ticket has really come off. But it is not a good day for progressive politics. It is a sad day for local democracy too - people have decided to vote UKIP rather than look at local issues of social care and schools, which is what local government is about. It is a UKIP day, a right-wing day. There are some spots of green light shining, but it looks bleak for the next four years.”

Independent, David Nettleton, said he was “pleasantly surprised” to be elected after numerous efforts to get into county hall. “I started feeling like one of those football teams that lose every match,” he added.

Mr Nettleton said he intends to work to “spruce” up Bury St Edmunds and will be visiting people that have written to him with issues.

But elsewhere in the west, the Conservatives held on to their seats, even if they saw their majority shrink.

Sarah Stamp produced the only Tory gain in the area after beating Independent Paul Hopfensperger to the former Lib Dem Hardwick seat in St Edmundsbury with 799 votes to his 737.

It was first time the Conservative, who was flagged up by Mr Ruffley as part of a “new-wave” of Tories, has stood for county.

She said: “There’s a lot to do, that’s clear from canvassing. I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into a number of issues, number one being parking around the area of the hospital. One of the reasons that I decided to stand was to take further action on things that I couldn’t control as a borough councillor.”

She added: “It was very close from all parties, but I wish more people had turned out to vote. I would like to see younger or people of my age voting even. I was hoping for more support from that age group.”

Ms Stamp said she was surprised at the volume of UKIP support.

Joanna Spicer, who attracted 53.18% of the Blackbourn, St Edmundsbury, vote said she was “personally, very relieved.”

She added: “I’m very surprised at the strength of the UKIP vote. But I have got a big personal vote so I’m very satisfied. In term of running the council, I think the Conservatives were always going to be the biggest party but it’s reassuring to have secured an overall majority. It does mean that the people of Suffolk are satisfied with the way that we are running the county and the decisions that we make.”

Ms Spicer, who recorded 1,565 votes, said education issues had cost her some votes.

UKIP’s Chas Coles was beaten into second place with 892.

Conservative Mary Evans, who started her career in the Stowmarket office of the EADT, said she was “thrilled”.

She added: “It’s been extremely hard work. What it came down to in Clare was that people realised it was a local election for local issues and my campaign was about local issues - wind turbines, heavy lorries.

“If you talk to people about local things they realise that’s what you can act upon and they stop talking about immigration.”

Mrs Evans won 46.26% of the vote with a total of 1,579. UKIP’s Stuart Letten came second with 1,077.

Conservative Terry Clements held Thingoe South, St Edmundsbury - returning 1,306 against UKIP’s 760.

Mr Clements said he was pleased with the “personal messages” he had but claimed he was a bit disappointed that his majority was not larger.

Conservative Beccy Hopfensperger retained Thingoe North, St Edmundsbury, with UKIP again finishing second with 506 to her 1,360.

She said she would continue to work on issues including speeding and HGVs using inappropriate roads around the Culford and West Stow areas. Mrs Hopfensperger said: “I’m really chuffed. I’ve already got money allocated for a number of project. Also, I’m arranging to put mobile vehicle activated signs throughout the division. That was one of my pledges and it’s what I’m going to do.”

Elsewhere in St Edmundsbury, Independent Trevor Beckwith held Eastgate and Moreton Hall with 39.76% of the vote. Conservative Peter Thompson was second with 674 votes.

In Forest Heath Conservative James Waters held Mildenhall with 893 votes, narrowly defeating UKIP’s David Chandler who netted 884 votes.

Lisa Chambers had clear blue water between her and UKIP challenger Dave Whitear, recording 968 votes to hold Newmarket and Red Lodge.

Colin Noble held Row Heath with 43.43% of the vote and a majority of more than 200 votes.

Speaking on behalf of the Forest Heath Conservatives he said: “We are delighted we won three out of five seats. We fought the campaign on local Suffolk issues and one can assume that people who voted for UKIP did so based on national issues because they (UKIP) haven’t bothered to come up with a local manifesto.”

He added: “Personally, I am delighted to have been given this great opportunity to represent Row Heath for the next four years.”

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