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Archive - Friday, 7 May 1999
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THE NEW political face of Sussex emerged today after a disastrous night of local election voting for Liberal Democrats.
As dozens of candidates were left wondering what went wrong, the Tories celebrated several key victories by predicting: "We're on our way back".
They smashed several crucial Lib Dem strangleholds across the county while strengthening many of their own.
Labour made gains but lost almost two-thirds of its majority on the flagship council, Brighton and Hove.
Arecount today could reveal they now have a vastly reduced ten-seat majority. So far Labour have 44 seats, Tories 25, Lib Dems three and Green three.
Council leader Lord Bassam said: "No ruling party has ever done so well mid-term in local government elections.
"I am sad that we have lost comrades who have given very good service."
The Conservatives claimed success at the polling stations, starting what they dubbed a "recovery to power".
Four years ago, they lost almost 2,000 seats nationally, many of which fell in Sussex.
But last night they clawed back several key marginals, mainly at the Lib Dem's expense.
In Worthing, the Tories destroyed the Lib Dem's stranglehold, stealing three seats, and overall control. There the Conservatives were boosted by former Lib Dem mayor David Chapman's defection to the party days before the elections.
In Eastbourne, the Lib Dems lost overall control for the first time in eight years after losing another two seats to the Tories.
In Adur, the Liberal Democrats' loss was Labour's gain. In what is now a hung council, Labour picked up six seats, becoming the largest party.
In Chichester the Tories are now back in charge after gaining seats. In Mid Sussex they snatched power from the Lib Dems. And in Bexhill, Tories stole three seats from the Lib Dems.
In Arun, the Tories tightened their grip by boosting their majority by a further six seats. They are now 16 seats clear of the Lid Dems, who lost four seats overall.
They did the same in Wealden, doubling their majority from four to eight. Overall they won 34 of the 58 seats up for grabs in Wealden while the Lib Dem's took 22, dropping one.
In Crawley, Labour councillor Jacqui Weller and Conservative challenger Ian Westwood tied on 1,063 votes.
For the first time in the council's history, the candidates were forced to draw lots to see who would win the seat. In a tense draw, Ian Westwood came off the winner. Crawley, however, remained firmly Labour. The party won nine seats, but lost two to the Tories, reducing their total number of seats from 27 to 25.
In general, turnout for the elections was poor.
Labour survived their first test in Hastings, after taking power for the first time in the town's history last year, gaining one seat from the Lib Dems.
Lewes remains firmly Liberal Democrat, after a challenge from Labour was stamped out. The Lib Dems took Peacehaven East, to increase their seats to 30. The Tories held their 16 seats.
Tory group leader Coun Keith Moorhouse summed up the mood of the Tories: "We have reached the bottom of the trough and have now turned the corner and are on our way back up."
Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.