Dead heats and a sense of déjà vu: The swings and roundabouts of election night

Northumberland’s Liberal Democrat leader, Jeff Reid, predicted that “there may be some surprises” in store throughout the count.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 2:34 pm
Updated Saturday, 8th May 2021, 9:59 am

Surprises? You can say that again, Jeff, but also a sense of déjà vu.

The surprises come in various guises. The occasional, unexpected Labour gain for instance (notwithstanding their five loses to the Conservative Party).

Bywell’s newly-elected 25-year-old Labour councillor Holly Waddell narrowly snatched her seat from incumbent Conservative councillor Stephen John Westgarth, 981 to 924.

Kelly Angus, Northumberland's returning officer announces one of the results.

The Greens secured not only their first seat but their second on the same night. Martin Swinbank, newly elected Green Party councillor for Alnwick, replaces former councillor, now Tory MP, Robbie Moore.

Then the déjà vu set in, but curiously we did not know it at first.

Initially, it was reported that Northumberland Labour leader Susan Dungworth had lost her seat of Hartley by one vote to the Conservatives. 868 to 869.

Gasps were audible throughout Blyth sports centre.

“Imagine losing by one vote” murmured throughout the hall.

It later transpired that this was, in fact, only the first of TWO deadheats.

Dungworth’s and her Tory opponent David Ferguson’s votes matched. So, instead of a public straw drawing, like in 2017, they opted for a private ballot-paper draw.

Labour lost out on this occasion.

Deputy Labour leader Scott Dickinson said: “It’s always difficult to see hard-working Labour councillors lose seats. Especially when we’ve seen so much scandal at the council under the current leadership. We are sad to lose any of our councillors, including Susan.”

Exciting enough and already eerily close to 2017.

But the night and the count was still young.

Despite the mild upsets and quirks of the night, the Conservatives seemed to be on track for a healthy majority. However, to quote the former Prime Minister Harold McMillian: “Events, dear boy, events”.

Berwick West with Ord was not only one of the last seats of a long night to be declared but was destined to be another electoral problem child.

Count officials told us the votes had been “thoroughly” counted and yet another stalemate had been reached.

So, another private ballot-paper draw was held between the Liberal Democrats candidate Elizabeth Hunter and Conservative incumbent Gregah Roughead.

Thus, the Liberal Democrats finished where they started and the Conservatives had their majority of one.

“After all that,” quipped Jeff.

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