The Liberal Democrats have stormed to a remarkable by-election victory in the one-time Conservative stronghold of Chiddingfold and Dunsfold.
Dave Busby won a 67 per cent share of the 979 votes cast to win the Waverley Borough Council seat for the Lib Dems on Thursday, beating ‘independent conservative’ Ian Mitchell – who had been suspended by the Tories just two days before polling day – into second with a 30 per cent share.
The result represented a 27 per cent swing to the Lib Dems, in a seat that had not returned a non-Tory councillor since it was founded in 2003, and in 2007 saw the Conservatives win an 84 per cent share of the vote.
Mr Busby was aided by the Green Party stepping aside their by-election candidate and backing the Lib Dems, as well as the suspension of his Tory rival on the eve of the poll.
However, Mr Mitchell – who was suspended over an alleged “inappropriate” Facebook post – was still listed on ballot papers as the Conservative candidate. And the former UKIP candidate’s suspension also came after many postal voters had cast their votes.
Labour candidate Rebecca Aitken came third with a three per cent share, with the voter turnout standing at 32 per cent.
The by-election was called after the death of Conservative councillor John Gray.
Mr Busby will be installed as Cllr Gray’s successor for just six months, with voters returning to polling stations next May to elect their borough representatives for the next four years.