After a short but intense campaign, the villages that comprise Downs North Ward, last week elected Charles Dehnel, Conservative, to be their Ashford Borough Councillor.
For the Ashford Independent team, and their candidate Rachael Carley, it was an extremely disappointing result that perfectly illustrated the challenges of resource and person-power faced by independents. When a by-election is called every political group runs to fight for the seat; the difference between these opportunities and a local election being that there is the luxury of being able to focus on just the one Ward, rather than needing to be present across the Borough. Independents are exactly ‘what it says on the tin’; independent – so no national party back up for us, no Member of Parliament to wheel out to impress… Just us, wearing out our own shoes, printing our own leaflets and walking the talk around the Ward.
After the May Local elections, several media articles noted the rise in independent Councillors that were elected. Some questioned whether the independent trend could change anything in local politics. The answer is a resounding YES WE CAN! Since May 3rd, with a reduced Conservative majority, Ashford Borough Council must debate more openly and fairly because residents have elected a more even spread of differing thinking into the Council. Difference drives debate – and that is good for democracy. Whilst we may not win the argument – a point well made will drive the final resulting compromise. Our focus is always on what our residents would think. We experience the issues and we hear and see how people in our Wards feel about them – speaking up in Council when the opportunity arises and working on the various decision making Committees. We are a big enough group now that we are present in them all.
So it was frustrating to be unsuccessful in the recent by-election – but we have plenty to keep us busy – until the next opportunity!