Green power as Tonbridge Tories call voters ‘hostile’
by Andy Tong | 8th May 2019
THE Green Party’s stunning success in Judd ward at the local elections hid a darker element that created a ‘hostile’ atmosphere on the doorstep, according to one of the Conservative candidates.
Veteran councillor David Cure lost his seat after 16 years and his running mate Tony Lambeth picked up just seven per cent of the vote.
They were ousted by Mark Hood, chair of the local protest group Keep River Lawn Green, and April Clark, who captured 79 per cent of the vote.
Mr Lambeth was picked to replace another Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council [TMBC] stalwart, 92-year-old Peter Bolt, who retired after serving Judd since 1976.
The South African has lived in the town for almost 20 years but experienced an intimidating reception when he knocked on some doors.
“There has been some bad stuff, people have had a hostile response to our canvassing,” he told the Times.
“I’m okay, it would take a hell of a lot to intimidate me, but it’s not the same for a lot of others. There is a lot of anger out there.”
Cllr Hood responded: “When they plan to put 480 homes needlessly on the Green Belt [under the draft Local Plan], people will be angry.
“The nature there is extraordinary and ruining it is unnecessary. I can understand their anger. There’s a pond where I used to fish with my dad.”
Mr Lambeth noticed a marked contrast in attitudes across the ward. “There was this whole bit about the Greens being very personable, it’s like a big family affair down in Barden Road.”
“I love that,” said Cllr Hood. “Barden is like a village, and Molescroft is an exceptionally close community too.
“We are setting up community Facebook pages so we know exactly what is going on in the ward.”
Mr Cure said the anger was directed at central government rather than the council, especially the Conservatives’ failure to deliver Brexit.
“It was obvious by about seven o’clock that we hadn’t got the vote out,” he said. “The Molescroft area took it out on the government.
‘It would take a lot to intimidate me, but it’s not the same for others. There’s a lot of anger’
“They are fed up with the government and Brexit. It’s been week in, week out, and people are bored, they just want them to get on with it.”
He added: “People were turning up at the polling station with two voting cards, for these elections and the European ones.”
The Greens’ win came as no surprise to Mr Cure, who said: “It’s to be expected, to be honest.
“The Greens have drafted people in from London and all over the place.
“All the things they are telling people about, I put them in my election address – River Lawn, the Local Plan, parking issues around the new doctors’ surgery [on River Lawn Road].
He said he had previously tried to save the tree on River Lawn that became a totem before Christmas as campaigners mounted a 24/7 vigil for a week, when Cllr Hood climbed into the branches.
“I wanted that tree to stay up. I called for an independent inspector to come and have a look at it. In the end they just cut a branch off.
You could say I’ve saved three quarters of that tree, if nothing else!”
He believes the high turn-out in the ward, 51 per cent, was down to the Greens’ ardour – which led to some residents wanting to vote against them.
“People were turning out to vote for us as a spin-off in the Barden Road area, where every other house seemed to have a Green poster.”
Mr Lambeth said: “The Greens had a very well structured strategy, they had all the right building blocks in place over a long period of time.
“You don’t just do this overnight, it has taken them two or three years. Meanwhile the councillors have been doing the business.”
He added: “The way their narrative has gone, we would never engage in it like that.”