The clunking fist strikes back!
News coming in this lunchtime has revealed a massively successful fight-back in the old ‘Foreign Ward’ by Walsall Labour Party candidates against their entrenched opponents in yesterday’s Walsall Council elections.
Bloxwich East was the hardest-fought ward in Bloxwich and district, with Shaun Fitzpatrick for Labour on 1205 votes narrowly defeating long-serving Tory Councillor Les Beeley with 1191 to give an important gain for Labour over the Conservatives. Interestingly, Alan Sheath of UKIP with a modest 229 votes still managed to trounce Stephen Baggot of the Democratic Labour Party with just 107 votes and Chris Cockayne of the LibDems barely moving the needle at 81.
In Bloxwich West, Labour candidate Sue Fletcher-Hall romped ahead, spearheading the turn against the Tories and gaining the seat by defeating another long-serving Conservative Councillor Des Pitt by 1438 votes to 1360 and leaving the Democratic Labour Party’s Michael Ross with 234 votes and LibDem Jeanette Pearce at 146 gasping in the distance.
Meanwhile in Blakenall Heath, a bruising Blakenall Ward bust-up left prominent (and only) Democratic Labour Party Councillor Peter Smith out-for-the-count after Ann Young delivered a surprise uppercut with 1256 votes vs 928 gaining the trophy for Labour yet again. Tory Afzal Muhammed and LibDem Robert Pearce were, unsurprisingly, left gasping on the ropes with just 453 and 95 votes respectively to show for their part in the melee.
Finally, there was icing on the day’s cake for celebrating Labour ‘Forreners’ with a sold hold in Birchills-Leamore, as Walsall Labour Group leader, Councillor Tim Oliver, reaped a substantial vote of 1574 compared to 961 cast for Kamran Aftab (Conservative), 167 for Roy Robinson (LibDem) and 158 for Alan Davies (Democratic Labour Party).
Borough-wide it now seems that Walsall Council has, as predicted by local pundits, returned to the ‘good old days’ of no overall control, with 28 Conservatives, 26 Labour, 5 LibDem and 1 Independent councillors now in place. What will happen next depends largely on whether the LibDems follow their traditional practice of rolling over for the Tories or whether they regain some of the principles which their national party has seemingly abandoned and go for something more progressive alongside Labour.
Bloxwich and district awaits the consequences with bated breath – but one thing is sure, our new Labour councillors can be justly proud of a fight for progress in the old ‘Foreign’ well won.