It was a day to forget for the Labour Party as the Tories took overall control of the county council following a four-year coalition with the Mansfield Independents.
It will be the first time in 12 years the Conservatives have controlled the council, and perhaps the most devastating loss for Labour in the county was that of the party’s group leader Alan Rhodes.
Mr Rhodes, who had represented Worksop North for the county council for roughly 17 years, was pushed out by just 157 votes, with the Conservative’s Callum Bailey emerging as the victor.
Back in 2017, the Conservative Party made a net-gain of 10 seats, but fell short of an overall majority (34 seats) by just three.
As a result, the party had to form a coalition with the Mansfield Independents.
Four years later at the Nottinghamshire County Council 2021 local elections on Friday, May 7, the party emerged victorious with a total of 37 seats, up from 31, while Labour continued on its downward spiral to defeat.
Labour, which lost 11 seats back in 2017, was cut down from 23 seats to just 15 this time round.
To put this into context, back in 2013, Labour had 34 seats.
Labour did however have one saving-grace.
In the Gedling borough most seats were retained by Labour councillors despite the lack of traction elsewhere.
In Arnold South, John Clarke retained his seat alongside fellow Labour candidate Michelle Welsh.
In fact, Councillor Clarke managed to increase his vote share over the previous election by roughly 4%, going against a Tory tide sweeping the country.
Victory was claimed with 4,371 votes for Councillor Clarke and 4,168 for councillor Welsh, compared to the Conservative Party’s 2,687 votes for Helen Greensmith and 2,583 for Michel Flor-Henry.
Speaking of this victory councillor Clarke said: “We’ve done it again and it shows how level-headed we are.
“It is incredible. It reflects on Gedling and the job we are doing to listen to people.
“National politics has not touched us. We do so much for the community and that is what people see is more important.”
While Labour also managed to keep Carlton West, with Jim Creamer and Errol Henry, Arnold North with Michael Payne and Pauline Allan, the Conservative Party’s Mike Adams cut the party’s celebrations short.
He managed to claim an early victory in Carlton East, taking the seat from Labour’s Nicki Brooks by just 23 votes.
War in the north
The Conservatives also made gains in Mansfield after picking up six of the nine available seats.
The party saw the vote share swing 26.9% in its favour as it picked up almost 40% of the overall vote, securing a councillor in every area possible having waged a successful war with the independents.
Over the border in Ashfield, however, it was a completely different picture.
Notable Conservative councillors Kevin and Phil Rostance lost their seats to the Ashfield Independents, who won all 10 available seats on the council.
This was done in a considerable margin across nine out of 10 areas, with the party receiving 57.4% of the vote.
The only area where the party won by a slim margin was in Selston, where candidate Dave Martin secured the seat by the skin of his teeth – a margin of just 11 votes.
‘Labour have had a well-deserved kicking’
Speaking to Nottinghamshire Live as it emerged the Conservative Party had claimed an overall majority, councillor Sam Smith, who was elected as Conservative Councillor for Newark East, expressed his delight.
He stopped just short of describing the victory as a “slaughter”, but added: “We’ve had a good four years, we have delivered on our priorities.
“Labour have had a well-deserved kicking. They have ignored priorities of the residents over the last four years.
“The leader of the Labour group losing his seat in Bassetlaw is evidence of that failure.
“We have gained seats in Mansfield, Bassetlaw and Gedling.”
No loss for the Lib Dems
In Broxtowe, despite a net-loss of four seats in 2017, the Liberal Democrats managed to utilise Steve Carr’s fierce reputation among the electorate once again.
Councillor Carr was re-elected to the Bramcote and Beeston North ward.
He said: “Thanks to all those that have put their faith in me for another four years.”
Broxtowe also proved a stubborn borough for the Conservatives, which lost two seats due to Labour’s Kate Foale claiming Beeston Central and Rylands and independent Elizabeth Williamson securing Greasley and Brinsley.
Strelley’s own Lion King, Reece Oliver, known for his big cat enclosure, failed to take down his rival Philip Owen.
‘I think it is going to take a while for the party to establish itself after the old leadership’
Summarising the day’s events and victory for the Conservatives, Alan Rhodes, said: “It was a bit of a shock.
“I have to say I do believe the Conservatives have been targeting this seat, they have put a lot of time and resources into it.
“National politics has had an impact in this election, more so than usual.
“I think it is going to take a while for the party to establish itself after the old leadership.
“There needs to be an internal discussion and one with the electorate.
“I would be happy to be part of that conversation.
“I do believe Keir Starmer is the man for the job.
“But this is not one of our finest moments, we’ve had better days, but politics is like that. What goes around comes around. That’s the nature of democracy.”
Speaking about what lies ahead for him, he added: “I do not know what is next for me.
“But I’m not ready to retire just yet. I’ll be looking for my next project.”