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Conservatives win a seat from Lib Dems in Longstanton by-election and describe it as ‘clear’ verdict on road-charging plans





The Conservatives have won a seat from the Liberal Democrats in the Longstanton by-election - describing it as a “political earthquake” and a clear verdict on proposals for road charging in Cambridge.

There were cheers from the Tory candidates shortly after midnight as it was that announced Tom Bygott had won one of the two ward seats on South Cambridgeshire District Council.

The Lib Dems held on to the other seat, with Cllr Natalie Warren-Green elected.

Cllr Natalie Warren-Green (Lib Dem) and Cllr Tom Bygott (Con) will represent Longstanton ward on South Cambridgeshire District Council following the by-election on November 3, 2022. Pictures: Hannah Brown (60437848)
Cllr Natalie Warren-Green (Lib Dem) and Cllr Tom Bygott (Con) will represent Longstanton ward on South Cambridgeshire District Council following the by-election on November 3, 2022. Pictures: Hannah Brown (60437848)

The by-election was called after the two former Liberal Democrat councillors announced they would be stepping down for personal reasons.

Alex Malyon and Sarah Cheung Johnson had both been re-elected to their seats earlier this in the May full council elections, both receiving over 600 votes more than the next nearest candidate.

However, that gap was closed in yesterday’s (November 3) by-election, with Cllr Bygott coming a close second to Cllr Warren-Green.

The Conservatives had campaigned against proposals from the Greater Cambridge Partnership for a new daily road charge in Cambridge to fund a revamped bus network.

Cllr Bygott said: “The one top thing that needs to come out of this is the congestion charge stopped. Most people talking about it on the doorstep do not want to pay £5 a day to go to Cambridge.

“The people pushing this need to think again. We need to improve public transport, but this is not the way to improve it.”

Cllr Bygott said his other priorities as a councillor for Longstantion will be to examine the drying up of ponds in the area, as well as highlighting the need for facilities in Northstowe.

The leader of the Conservative group at South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Heather Williams, said the Tory candidates had fought a “tough campaign” on “good local issues”.

Cllr Heather Williams, Conservative group leader on South Cambridgeshire District Council. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Heather Williams, Conservative group leader on South Cambridgeshire District Council. Picture: Keith Heppell

She said: “I think what we have seen is a clear voice from residents about things like the congestion charge and other local issues.

“We have been very clear, we will do all we can to stop the congestion charge. It is against our policy and I hope that people are listening and see that we can win in South Cambridgeshire and we will if that is what people want and we will stop that congestion charge if we can.”

Cllr Williams also said that despite the country being in an “interesting political sphere at the moment”, she said the by-election showed local issues were important and that it was “maybe a sign of things to come”.

Anthony Browne, the Conservative MP in South Cambridgeshire, congratulated his party colleague on his win.

“Huge congratulations to new Conservative councillor Tom Bygott, who won the seat for Longstanton, Northstowe and Oakington from the Liberal Democrats yesterday, and to Khadijeh Zargar, who managed to massively increase her vote share,” he said.

“This is without doubt a major political earthquake in South Cambridgeshire. The Liberal Democrats took about 70 per cent of votes in the ward in the May elections just six months ago, but their vote share has since dropped 39 per cent and they lost the seat.

“It is the most spectacular collapse of support in such a short time. This is the first by-election gain for the Conservatives in South Cambs at least since 2014.

Anthony Browne, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire. Picture: Keith Heppell
Anthony Browne, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire. Picture: Keith Heppell

“It marks a clear turning of the political tide against the Lib Dems as voters roundly reject their truly awful policies, from the congestion charge and concreting over the countryside with 49,000 homes to destroying local water habitats and encouraging the dumping of sewage in our chalk streams, and sending council staff off on a four day working week on full pay.

“The Liberal Democrats are so embarrassed by their own policies that they were reduced to lying about them to voters, telling residents that the Liberal Democrats are campaigning against the congestion charge when in fact they are the ones imposing it.

“More than anything else, this is a clear message from voters to the Liberal Democrats: the public doesn’t want the congestion charge, and if you keep pushing it, then the public don’t want you. Now is the time to drop this draconian driving tax.”

The Liberal Democrats still have a strong majority on the district council, but this is the second seat the party has lost since the May elections after one former Lib Dem became an Independent councillor.

Cllr Warren-Green said she felt “privileged” to have been elected to represent the ward and to be part of “getting things right” for the community.

She said she was “disappointed” the party was not able to win both seats, and said the Labour candidates standing had “created an environment where the Tories can win”.

Cllr Warren-Green said she wanted to get to know Cllr Bygott and his position on issues.

Pippa Heylings, a district councillor and the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire. Picture: Hannah Brown (60437782)
Pippa Heylings, a district councillor and the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire. Picture: Hannah Brown (60437782)

She said her approach would be to “listen” and work with the Tories to serve the community and party differences should not get in the way of that.

Cllr Pippa Heylings, a Liberal Democrat district councillor and the party’s Parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire, said the election of a Cllr Warren-Green showed people “respect and trust in the work of the Liberal Democrats”.

Cllr Heylings said she did think debates over the potential Cambridge road charge had impacted the outcome of the by-election.

She said: “I think it is a shame this has been treated like a referendum when this was a vote on which councillors enable you to have a voice.

“I hope we can find a way where there is trust in a consultation process to bring in information and detail, and to challenge and also change things. We are very open to listening and changing.

“I think treating it as a referendum is taking people’s voices away in a paradoxical way. We have all seen the chaos with the buses. The model is completely broken and we have to come together and build a new way of doing this. There is one proposal on the table - it needs to get better, but we need stuff on the table.”

Looking ahead to a General Election, she said the by-election “confirmed” it would be a race between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, and that she would be “working towards that”.

Full results - Longstanton by-election

  • Tom Bygott – Conservative Party – 566 – Elected
  • Colin Coe – Green Party – 85
  • Dan Greef – Labour Party – 411
  • Anand Pillai – Labour Party – 266
  • Debbie Poyser – Independent – 422
  • Silke Scott-Mance – Green Party – 169
  • Natalie Warren-Green – Liberal Democrat – 578 – Elected
  • Khadijeh Zargar – Conservative Party – 394
  • Lawrence Zeegen – Liberal Democrat – 534

News South Cambridgeshire District Council political make-up

  • Liberal Democrats - 35
  • Conservatives - 9
  • Independent 1

Liberal Democrat control



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