Arborfield Election 2018

It’s been a busy few weeks. Most long time Arborfield residents would not have experienced a full on campaign such as the one we have just had. In previous years Arborfield was a bit of a backwater in Wokingham Borough terms with local village candidates Gary Cowan and Steve Bacon arguing over their respective views of the future direction for the village. We’d get a couple of leaflets from each through the door, but as both were active around the village anyway people were pretty clear as to what each one believed.

That all changed in 2016 when Gary left the Conservative Party in a blaze of local publicity, and instead sat as an independent, and Steve Bacon retired to Wiltshire. That brought the prospect of a rather different election, and brought up the question of whether Gary had won all these years as a Conservative, or whether Gary was winning because he was a good councillor, and his party allegiance was largely irrelevant.

The Wokingham Conservatives were clear that it was the former when they parachuted in David Edmonds, their constituency party treasurer from Riseley, someone who had no experience as a local councillor, no previous association with Arborfield, no involvement in the extensive discussions over the school, no involvement with the Arborfield Bypass, no involvement in the regular Community Forums, no involvement in village events, and who prior to him and his wife knocking on every door in the ward multiple times in the last few weeks the vast majority of us had never met.

Many long time residents of Arborfield were pretty sure it was the latter. Like all of us they’d experienced first hand Gary’s assistance with a variety of issues over the past twenty-one years.

When the campaign kicked off we were hopeful of a positive campaign, with David Edmonds promoting the Conservative clean campaign pledge, and whilst he kept to that in print, sadly as we highlighted both here and here his campaign nosedived into the gutter and on the doorstep the Conservatives were becoming increasingly negative.

However, it is clear from the result how the people of Arborfield, people who have had twenty-one years of being represented by Gary reacted to a bunch of total strangers turning up on the doorstep and trying to paint Gary as some sort of waster who would get elected and swan off to his non-existent luxury pad in the South of France, we’d seen how hard he has worked over the years, and the picture didn’t fit. On an increased turnout Gary was returned with more than double the vote of his Conservative challenger, and more votes than he got last election. It was a great result in a borough that many claimed could never return an independent, and one that we’re sure has sent almost as many shockwaves through the local Conservatives as their loss of deputy leader David Lee in Norreys, and Executive Member for Children’s Services Mark Ashwell in Evendons, or the other Independent in the elections Jim Frewin coming second in Shinfield.

Put simply the Conservatives have forgotten what it means to be a hard working local councillor. Throughout the campaign whilst the Conservatives were putting out lots and lots of leaflets, Gary as always was active addressing residents issues. Right in the middle of the campaign there was an issue with an exercise class being stopped by over officious security guards on the Garrison playing fields, as always Gary got stuck in. He’d spent that evening at the Parish Council meeting and picked up the problem when he got home. He got in contact late night with Crest to sort it out and the next day Gary had an answer, confirmation from Crest that the class shouldn’t have been stopped and shared it online.

You don’t need to take our word for it, his active work for the community can be seen on the Arborfield Community and Arborfield Green Community groups on Facebook over and over and over again. Where was David Edmonds? Thanking people for their views but apparently not doing anything except taking selfies around the village and commenting on the weather on his personal Facebook page.

The election is over. Hopefully the Conservatives will now step back and consider why in what was regarded as a safe Conservative seat into which they poured hours and hours of time and significant resources they were so significantly beaten, whilst we as a village move forward.

Our simple advice to anyone from any party who is looking to follow Gary as Borough Councillor is you need to be visible and working for the village, the result is clear that Arborfield expects a hard working councillor who actively engages with its residents concerns over months and years, not one who just appears six weeks before the election with stacks of glossy leaflets. Use sites like Facebook to engage with the residents, not to show us how pretty our village is, or comment on the weather.

Don’t wait for the election, don’t wait to be told, come along to the community forums, come along to the parish meetings, come along to village events, find out the issues, find out what concerns residents, and get working for them.

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