In the early hours of Friday morning at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall, the Liberal Democrats retained their seat in St James’ ward.
Despite an excellent and dedicated candidate in Alan McDermott, whose campaign was textbook perfect, he lost by just three hundred odd votes to Mary Lewis.
There were some real positives to take away from this however. First, the Liberal Democrats were clearly rattled. Their candidate elsewhere in the Borough told me that morning “the Tories are smashing us to bits in St James”. Second, their Leader, David Neve, saw what we could do when we fix our sights – although they won, it was with a fraction of their previous majority – and spent most of Polling Day red-faced and angry, even telling one of his colleagues “I think we’ve lost this”.
Finally, and most importantly, the Conservatives are back in St James’ after two decades – with many more supporters and a significant band of volunteers who now want to help as we begin an ongoing campaign running up to the next elections.
The Liberal Democrats, with all the usual dubious and cheap campaign tactics, have scored a hollow victory. Like it or not, the Conservatives are back in St James – on the doorsteps, on the phone and through the letterboxes.
To paraphrase the 1966 World Cup commentary, “they think it’s all over”. Our job is to make sure it very much isn’t now.