Posted: 24.09.21 at 12:00 by Philippa Davies
The Liberal Democrats have held on to a seat on East Devon District Council after a closely fought by-election for the Exe Valley ward.
Jamie Kemp received 190 votes, seeing off Conservative Kevin Wraight who won 164 and Labour’s candidate, Mike Daniell, who earned 161. One voter made their opinion well known by spoiling their ballot paper, drawing sad faces next to each candidate's' name.
The turnout was 26 per cent.
Mr Kemp is expected to join the council’s ruling coalition known as the Democratic Alliance, a combination of the East Devon Alliance, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Labour and some, but not all, Independents.
He picks up the reins from fellow Liberal Democrat Fabian King who stepped down as a councillor in July to focus on his business, which he said had been affected by Covid.
Speaking after the result Mr Kemp said: “I’m over the moon. It’s been a fantastic campaign, the other candidates have worked really hard. It’s a win really for everybody in the Exe Valley and I look forward to representing them.
“And, yes, now my wife probably won’t moan at me quite so much – and the children won’t be as annoyed with me!
“I look forward to starting work with the other councillors and getting the job done.”
Conservative candidate Kevin Wraight said: “I’m disappointed, obviously. I wanted to win but it’s a fair fight - it’s been a good campaign and three extremely good, strong candidates.
“I think the Exe Valley has been very well served by an election that’s been so close.”
Labour candidate Mike Daniell was also pleased with the result: “I’m more than chuffed with it.
“We’ve given everyone a run for their money to the point that this has become a very well-fought campaign.
“I think Labour’s given everyone such a good kick up the arse as it were that they’ve gone out and really campaigned hard, so I congratulate Jamie on a very hard-fought success.”
The defeated candidates might not have to wait too long for another attempt with the next full district council elections expected to go ahead in 18 months.
For now, the make-up of the council is now as follows:
Conservatives - 22
East Devon Alliance - 13
Independents - 14
Liberal Democrats - 7
Green Party - 2
Labour - 2
The Exe Valley vote was the district council's third by-election in recent months, with polls held in May and July this year.
The July by-elections returned some surprises as Conservative Alasdair Bruce took Feniton, previously held by an Independent, and teenager Jake Bonetta won Honiton St Michael’s.
The 19-year old took the seat previously held by the Liberal Democrats to become the first Labour councillor on the district council in more than 20 years. Since his election formerly independent councillor Paul Millar (Exmouth Halsdon) has joined Labour, giving the party two seats.
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