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Archive - Friday, 5 May 2000
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Election round-up: Labour lose control in Basildon
It was blue murder for Basildon's ruling Labour party on Thursday night as rampant Tories made sweeping gains to leave a hung council.
Labour's loss of control in the Basildon district came in a night of woe for Tony Blair.
Nationally, the Tories took hundreds of local council seats from Labour and won control of at least 16 councils, including Southend.
The Conservatives took great swathes of the Basildon district, stealing a host of seats from the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, and proclaimed: "Essex man has shown Labour the back door."
The shock result leaves no party in overall control of Basildon Council for the first time in five years and the Lib Dems holding the key to the balance of power.
Downcast Labour saw its majority slashed from 12 seats to just two with the Tories improving their standing from 11 seats to 18 and the Liberal Democrats with four seats.
Basildon's Labour party blamed the drubbing on William Hague's asylum seeker campaign.
However, jubilant Tory leader, Malcolm Buckley, rejected the claims as sour grapes. He said: "The message from Essex man is that the back door is open and it's time for Labour to go through it. It shows Basildon is disillusioned with the Government.
"This is the best result we could have expected. Not only did we take the target seats but we slaughtered Labour's majority."
The Tories bagged every seat in Wickford and Billericay previously held by the Lib Dems.
The smash and grab continued in Basildon with Labour losing the key marginal seats of Langdon Hills, Laindon and Pitsea East to the Tories.
Council leader John Potter admitted he was disappointed. He said: "Mr Hague appealed to the most basic of human instincts on the asylum seeker issue. But it is not a reflection on the work of Basildon Council.
"The Tories campaigned entirely on national issues."
The Lib Dems saw their standing halved by the Tories but ironically the Conservative gains leave the party with a leverage on power.
Mr Potter said it would be up to the Lib Dems whether they wanted a "Tory or Labour administration".
However, Lib Dem leader, Geoff Williams, told the Echo Mr Potter had ruled out any formal power sharing agreement between the parties.
Mr Williams said: "Basildon Council is now in a position where issues will be decided on their merit and not on party politics."
Basildon and East Thurrock MP Angela Smith today (Friday) pledged to listen to voters after last night's Labour losses.
She said: "I think what's happened is that Tory voters have come out in greater numbers than our voters.
"You do get mid-term blues during the mid-term of a government, but I wouldn't dismiss that - it's something we've got to listen to. We have to listen to what people are saying to us."
Cheers - jubilant Tory winner Stephen Hillier leads celebrations
Picture: MAXINE CLARKE
Converted for the new archive on 19 November 2001. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.