9 unusual things you may have missed about Suffolk’s local elections
In a tumultuous time for British politics, the only thing that could be expected as Suffolk went to the polls for the 2019 local elections was…for the totally unexpected to happen. Here are some of the weird and wonderful things which dominated this year’s campaign:
■ Spoilt ballots – Ipswich Borough Council reported a higher number of spoilt ballot papers than usual, which contributed to a delay in the counting of the votes overnight. Some had written “Brexit” across their ballot papers or made other marks.
Although spoilt ballots have always featured in elections, is this a sign that with the current problems with Brexit more people feel disaffected with politics?
■ Green shoots – for many they have long been a party on the fringes of British politics, with one or two councillors here and there. But the Green Party made a huge breakthrough in Suffolk in 2019, winning seats in every district and even unseating former Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee in Beccles and Worlingham.
Are their results just a flash in the pan, or are the Greens now a force to be reckoned with in Suffolk politics?
■ Shear politics? – ewe wouldn't believe the lengths candidates would go to get their vote out…
Farmer Andy Mellen, standing for the Greens, had the baa-rmy idea of spraying “Vote Andy” on the side of his livestock in Cotton, near Stowmarket.
It seemed to do the trick – voters flocked to him as he polled 633 votes to Conservative Jill Wilshaw's 343. Was it the sheep wot won it?
■ High profile scalps – few people would have predicted some of Suffolk's biggest names to lose their seats in a dramatic election.
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Mark Bee was talked about as a possible leader for the new East Suffolk Council but now finds himself without a seat after losing to the Greens.
Mid Suffolk District Council leader Nick Gowrley was also unseated, along with former Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble in Lakenheath.
■ Just a few votes in it – many results were a close shave. Four more votes would have seen Conservative Maureen Jones pip independent Tony Cooper to the post in Aldeburgh and Leiston, whereas West Suffolk's Eastgate ward saw Labour candidate Cliff Waterman poll 228 while his two opponents both scored 225.
It just goes to show that every vote really does count.
■ Young winners – there are often complaints that the ranks of councillors are dominated by people from the older generations, but there were also plenty of young candidates standing in Suffolk.
While many people his age may not have even had the chance to vote for the first time, 19-year-old Zac Norman was elected to Mid Suffolk District Council – with South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge among the first to congratulate the district's “youngest ever councillor”.
■ Low turnout – local elections are known to record lower turnouts than general elections, but in many places fewer than one in three people voted.
In Lowestoft's Gunton and St Margaret's ward turnout was just 30%, whereas in Ipswich's Alexandra ward turnout was 28.1%. A sign of apathy or disillusionment in politics?
■ Biggest win? – David Beavan in Southwold may have recorded Suffolk's largest win when he got a whopping 80.1% share of the vote, more than 1,000 more votes than his nearest rival, Conservative Michael Ladd.
■ Dogs steal the day – as the county went to polls, people momentarily forgot the rough and tumble of politics to share their pictures of dogs outside polling stations.
Had they been eligible to stand, we're sure these popular pooches would've picked up a lot of support.
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