Recounts, shock exits, tears and jubilation - this year’s county council election results for the Fenland district had all the drama of a television soap.
For the first time in recent memory the Conservatives in this part of the county lost out dropping five of the 11 seats to UKIP (United Kingdom Independent Party), and there were other shocks across the county with the largest surprise seeing council Leader Nick Clarke ousted from his Fulbourn seat.
The Tories’ losses leave the county council without an overall ruling party for the first time in a generation.
There were gasps, shaking of heads and an air of despondency over at Wisbech’s Hudson Centre this afternoon (Friday) as the results for the local seats were announced by the area’s returning officer, Paul Medd, chief executive of Fenland Council.
But at least three of the UKIP candidates failed to turn-up in time to make acceptance speeches despite deposing some of the area’s big names including Simon King, who has represented the Wisbech South ward for the past 12 years.
He was beaten by Peter Lagoda losing out by 138 votes with Labour’s Malcolm Gamble polling 333 votes, knocking Liberal Democrat Dave Patrick into fourth place.
In fact four of UKIP’s Fenland gains came in the Wisbech area with serving Tories Samantha Hoy and Steve Tierney also being knocked out. Mr Tierney lost out by just 11 votes after a recount.
March told a different story with all three of the seats remaining under Conservative control, but it was a close call for the two candidates facing UKIP opposition.
John Clark, whose March West ward was contested just by the three main parties, romped home polling 1023 votes over double those of Labour’s second place candidate Charlotte Goodhall-Perry.
But Steve Count in March North and Fred Yeulett in March East both had nail-biting finishes, with both at one time believing they were out.
However, in the end Mr Count beat his UKIP second place rival Christina Towns by a comfortable 115 votes, although Mr Yeulett had a less comfortable win beating UKIP’s Richard Mason by just 38 votes. Labour’s Martin Field polled a respectable 508 votes to easily beat Lib Dem Diana Baldry into fourth.
Chatteris ward, the seat vacated by long-term Tory-stalwart Alan Melton, who stood down from the county council this time around to spend more time with his family, saw an equally knife-edge finish after two recounts with UKIP’s Sandra Rylance winning by just five votes.
She was not present to make an acceptance speech but defeated Tory candidate Mark Buckton took the opportunity to thank his team and have a pop at the absent victor stating: “I look forward to an early by-election” and congratulated the voters of Chatteris on choosing a “paper candidate” as their representative.
The Forty Foot ward remained under the Conservatives with David Connor enjoying one of the larger winning margins in this area.
He beat UKIP’s David Kelley by 164 votes. Independent Mark Archer took third place beating Labour’s Valerie Brooker into fourth.
Wisbech North, which was one of the hardest fought battles of the election, saw Paul Clapp of UKIP beat independent Virginia Bucknor by a healthy 279 votes, sending sitting councillor Samantha Hoy into third place ahead of Labour’s Dean Reeves.
Miss Hoy polled just over half the number of votes received by victorious Mr Clapp, who was also not present to here his win announced.
He was at work, but made a hasty journey from Peterborough to Wisbech after hearing of his victory from wife Susan Carson.
Waldersey also saw the Tories routed with UKIP’s Gordon Gillick, husband of anti-abortion campaigner Victoria Gillick, beating nearest rival Gavin Booth of the Liberal Democrats by 105 votes.
In Whittlesey the Conservatives were victorious winning both seats comfortably. Long-serving Ralph Butcher won by a clear 545 votes polling 990 compared to English Democrats’ candidate Stephen Goldspink who got 536 and Labour bringing up the rear with 302 votes.
Martin Curtis won Whittlesey North polling a whopping 1,151 votes for the Tories beating UKIP’s John Redding into second with 611, Labour third and English Democrats taking just 48 votes.
For further coverage, reaction and pictures see Wednesday’s paper.