By Councillor Dawn Smith
History was made here in sunny Worthing on election results weekend, May 2021. A once very traditional Conservative town in the county of West Sussex, which is as blue as you will find, now has a big splash of red thrown across its political canvass! I could not be more proud of all those who made this happen, and to stand with the other four wonderful Councillors who were elected with me – they are both good friends and comrades. We are elected in name only on a ballot paper, but these seats are a collective win, created through traditional Labour grassroots activism, community involvement in our wards, and put in place by residents who want to embrace progressive change.
I became the first ever Labour County Councillor declared to go to County Hall from Worthing. I didn’t even hear the vote numbers from the returning officer, as only the candidate or agent could go to find out, due to Covid restrictions. I was far too nervous, so our agent went, who would also win his seat soon after. I found out I’d won when the Conservative I had defeated came to congratulate me. What a shock! I screamed, cried and then dared to feel so hopeful for the others.
My division declaration, Broadwater, was very closely followed by four other Labour victories, and four of the five are women. That in itself is a fantastic achievement because there are very few women at County Hall. For representation from Worthing at County Council level, we are the majority party.
Going from zero to five in one set of results is by any measurement is an outstanding achievement. We will join four other County Councillors from Crawley, and be an opposition group of nine. All of us have different backgrounds, skills and passions, and will work hard for our residents with constituent casework and holding the Conservatives to account.
I believe our success was born primarily from community grassroots campaigning, listening to residents whichever way they vote, shaping local policies based on the needs identified by voter engagement, having hard-working Borough Councillors and CLP activists and by having targeted ward campaigns. We have a continuing change in our demographics, with more families moving here from Brighton and a Conservative administration that is out of ideas and seen by many as complacent at best.
On this historic weekend we won five more Borough Council seats here in Worthing, and our group leader successfully retained her seat. We are now a strong opposition group of 15. The Conservatives now have a majority of one, down from 33 when we won our first seat in 2017. Next year we are planning to take control with bold, ambitious people-focused policies. The campaigning for 2022 will begin soon enough, and I’m so excited by how we can change this town for the betterment of our residents, the driving motivation behind every single campaign.
Dawn Smith is West Sussex County Councillor, Broadwater Division and Worthing Borough Councillor, Broadwater Ward.
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