LABOUR leaders are refusing to get carried away with better than expected council election results as they try to fight back against the sea of Conservative blue in Sussex.

Victorious council leaders said the party had not made the significant headway in Thursday's council elections needed to herald serious hopes of making gains in the next general election.

The elections were seen as the first major test of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership but local figures in the county said local issues like potholes played a greater role in the election outcome.

Some on the election trail however credited Mr Corbyn’s impact on local membership increasing manpower for doorstep campaigning.

Labour held power in Hastings, extended control in Crawley and even claimed seats in Adur in Thursday's elections.

Former Hove MP Ivor Caplin said despite successes in Sussex and in the London mayoral race, the local election results were “disappointing” for the party nationally.

Mr Caplin said: “You would have to be a supreme optimist to claim these as anything other than a disappointing set of elections results.

“A week is a long time in politics, so four years is an extremely long time and there is no evidence in these results that those non-voters engaged by Mr Corbyn’s success have come out to vote for us.”

Sarah Owen, former Labour parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye, said: “If you look at the breakdown the places where we won, Crawley, Hastings and Southampton in the South East, these are the sort of places we need to win in 2020 to take back control.

“Our membership has doubled since the last election, we have some fresh impetus to campaigns out on the doorsteps and people who did not vote for us before, are not only voting for us but coming out and campaigning for us.”

Hastings Borough Council leader Peter Chowney said: “Where Jeremy came up in conversation I think he was considered an asset, there was more enthusiasm because of him, but in a local election it is the local issues of potholes, dog poo and litter that people want to talk about.

“I think all over the South East, Labour increased its share of the vote but I think we’re always going to be islands in a sea of blue here in Sussex, it’s just a matter of how big those archipelagos are.”

Crawley Borough Council leader Peter Lamb said: “The party has to get a lot more focussed than it has been.

“The issue is not with Jeremy, it is with the people around him who are just not up to the job of politics at this level.

“I’m not sure we have seen the significant changes that would affect the national picture, its very different getting over the line with the local election to the wider gains you need for a general election win.”


IT WAS a case of as you were in Hastings as the Labour -administration held its 14 seats and Conservatives held their three.

Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye Amber Rudd said Labour were “run very close” in a couple of the seats with the Tories coming within 80 votes of claiming West St Leonards, although they could only achieve a 0.2 per cent swing on the 2012 vote.

The Conservatives were also within 100 votes of claiming Ore, this time with a more substantial swing of 6.6 per cent.

It was an emotional night in Hastings coming almost a year after the death of then council leader Jeremy Birch, who collapsed while out on the election campaign trail.

Turnout was a respectable 35.7 per cent – a significant increase on the 30 per cent in 2012. It leaves Labour as far and away the biggest party with 24 councillors and the Conservatives with eight.


LABOUR and Ukip shared the spoils in Adur where the ruling Conservative administration suffered heavy losses.

The two opposition parties shared the four lost Tory seats with Labour claiming St Mary’s and Eastbrook while Ukip gained Churchill and Widewater.

Among the losses for during a bad day for the Tories, who remain the ruling group, was the defeat to Ukip in Churchill of cabinet member for regeneration Pat Beresford, while Shoreham Beach maintained its reputation for doing things differently by voted in another independent candidate, Joss Loader.

The Tories had more reasons to cheer across the border in Worthing where the group reinforced its strong control over the council.

Conservatives took all but two of the 13 seats up for grabs to strengthen their position of 32 of the 37 seats on the council.

It was a bad day for the Liberal Democrats, who lost two seats including leader Keith Sunderland, with Ukip claiming his Northbrook seat.


LABOUR had plenty of reason to celebrate in Crawley after extending its marginal control over the council.

The party took nine of the 13 seats up for grabs on the night including taking the Southgate seat from the Conservatives to extend their majority to three.

The result proved a consolidation on the party’s victory in 2014 where they took back control of the council from their Tory rivals.

The night could have been even better for council leader Peter Lamb and his team if a close contest to claim Three Bridges had gone their way.

Labour were pushed close in Tilgate, where Carlos Portal Castro won by just 105 votes, while Peter Smith held off a spirited challenge from Andrew Jagger to retain Ifield for Labour.

The turnout was estimated at around 30 per cent after a technical problem at the count prevented an exact figure being issued.