The moment Tunbridge Wells stood alone in a sea of blue

Greg Clark

It was 2.30am and the count was in full swing when this reporter arrived at Putlands Sports Centre, Paddock Wood, to witness the people of Tunbridge Wells make their voice known in this historic Referendum.

Tens of thousands of ballots were being processed by a dedicated team of around one hundred count assistants and although they had been awake throughout the night, they were not showing signs of fatigue.

Overseeing the count were agents appointed by both sides of the campaign to ensure fair play. Supporters from both camps congregated in their respective groups to watch the drama unfold.

There was a sense of isolation surrounding the count as poor phone reception and a lack of wifi meant information about the seismic events unfolding across the country came in only dribs and drabs.

This journalist became dependent on texts from an enthusiastic colleague, who was watching from the comfort of his own home, for a general sense of what was going on elsewhere.

Several rounds of verification took place over the next hour and a half, before the votes were carefully placed back into their boxes and the Local Counting Officer, William Benson, waited for the final go-ahead to announce the result.

Palpable anticipation hung in the air as Mr Benson retreated to a separate room with the final figures, to converse with the Referendum’s South-East regional centre in Southampton.

At one point, it seemed perhaps a mistake had been made when Mr Benson re-entered the main hall to say the regional centre had delayed giving the green light to state the result.

But 15 minutes later, at around 4.15am, he asked for the attention of those gathered.

Cheers rang out from Remain supporters as Mr Benson said the borough of Tunbridge Wells had, by 35,676 votes to 29,320, on a turnout of 79.1 per cent, opted to remain in the EU.

However, those who had been campaigning to Leave were far from downbeat, having lost by a margin of just 9.78 per cent in a town which they said would vote Remain anyway, and news from the wider Referendum gave them good cause to be cheerful.

It soon became apparent that Tunbridge Wells was about to find itself alone in a county which voted overwhelmingly for Brexit while the country itself was entering uncharted waters.

Greg Clark

‘We must accept the decision… whichever way that we voted’

MP Greg Clark who favoured the Remain option, reacted to the vote by saying: “I’m proud that the debate in Tunbridge Wells – including in the pages of this newspaper – was respectful and well informed. That’s how we do things here.

“Although Tunbridge Wells, like me, voted for Remain, we must all accept the decision of the British people.

“Whichever way we voted, we need to come together now for the good of our country and negotiate constructively
with our European neighbours.

If we do so with courtesy and persuasiveness, we are more than capable of obtaining a good outcome.”

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