By Cllr Dawn Smith
On Friday 3rd December Labour won a Borough Council by-election in Marine Ward of Worthing and Councillor Vicki Wells became our 17th Labour Councillor, with a massive vote swing of 17.6%.
This result was a fantastic win, bucking the Labour results trend in many areas of the country. The result also saw the Conservative Party administration lose its overall control of the Council, as they now also have 17 Councillors, along with 2 Liberal Democrats.
There have been many Conservative administrations in this town – this one has been in place since 2004 – some Liberal Democrat ones too, but never a Labour-led Council, and in May 2022 this is looking more like a reality. We will certainly be campaigning for it, and offering a very different, positive alternative to the current local tired Tory administration, who are very much now on notice.
The by-election came about because the former Marine Ward Conservative Councillor, Tim Wills, was exposed by the campaign group Hope Not Hate as a supporter of the far right group Patriotic Alternative. This group preaches vile white supremacist views, views that were not democratically elected in May 2019 here in Worthing.
The Conservative Party suspended him, and rightly so. However, there is no mechanism to remove a Councillor from office, so we all had to wait for him to resign. Stand up to Racism, a local anti-racism group held demonstrations at the Town Hall, applying pressure for him to go. Over one hundred residents attended the first demonstration before he resigned, but not one Conservative Councillor publicly spoke out.
All of the Labour group spoke out and supported the demonstrations, most attended them, and indeed many of us took to the megaphones against fascism in our Town Hall, on the Town Hall steps. This was on the very day, 9th October, where 86 years earlier, Oswald Moseley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists spoke in Worthing, and history shows he was chased out too! There is no space for fascism being represented in this town.
Worthing is an increasingly diverse coastal town in West Sussex, and the people who voted for Councillor Vicki Wells on 2nd December voted for both a candidate and a Party who believe in the benefits of inclusion, fairness and diversity as an enrichment to our town. They voted for a progressive candidate and Party who want to make our Council greener, kinder and involve residents directly in decision making.
When the campaign for May 2022 begins early in the New Year, Worthing will see a united local Labour Party campaigning to win for the betterment of all residents. There will be many dedicated local activists supporting the Councillors and candidates by grassroots methods of campaigning. There will be pavements pounded, doors knocked and conversations with all residents who are wanting to be listened to.
This is our local Worthing Labour Party, and it’s how we win for Worthing.
Dawn Smith is a Labour Broadwater Borough and County Councillor
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