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Jean Law wins Herne Bay by-election for Tories

Jean Law's stunning victory at the Herne Bay by-election was overshadowed by an angry mob of protesters. Activist Bunny La Roche and five cohorts gate-crashed the vote count and launched a tirade of abuse at British National Party candidate Dennis Whiting.

Chants of "Nazi scum" and "homophobe" echoed around the Christ Church Parish Hall in Underdown Road as the BNP result was announced. One protester screamed: "When are you going to f***ing die Whiting?"

The 75-year-old, who once advocated the introduction of a £5,000 grant to send former Herne Bay Times reporter Connie Lee "home" to Malaysia, looked sheepish as Conservative Cllr Law tried to calm the rowdy mob. Later she said:

"That is what democracy in Britain is all about - being able to say what you believe. Bunny is a great lady. Her protests didn't spoil my celebrations at all. She was just showing how she feels. As a politician you have to expect to be criticised. It's the nature of what we do."

Mr Whiting was less than impressed with what he described as an "unwarranted verbal attack", he said:

"It was totally inappropriate and just indicates the closed minds they have. People like them think as long they don't do anything physical they can shout whatever disgusting abuse they like. I've never been thick-skinned but I've been in the game long enough to know what to expect. It was a shame for Jean Law because it completely spoiled the atmosphere for her. I wish the lady no ill will and hope she gets on well in the future."

Cllr Law now steps into the county council seat left vacant by the sudden death of her husband John in August. With almost half the 5,186 votes, a 23 per cent turn out, Cllr Law easily beat off competition from her nearest rival, Liberal Democrat candidate Margaret Flaherty. Cllr Law said:

"I am absolutely exhausted. I have to thank the people who supported and voted for me. I just hope their trust is not misplaced. I am so passionate about Herne Bay and will do everything I can at County Hall."

Cllr Law's husband died suddenly after a stroke at the couple's home in Whitstable. He had been county councillor for Herne Bay for seven years, most recently alongside David Hirst. Cllr Law said:

"It is a huge legacy to carry on because John left so many things that I hope to continue. But as much as I love him, this was not his election. Every election belongs to the people and it is up to them who they want to choose. I didn't really know what to expect but I'm delighted. I have been working 14 hours a day for more than a month."

Despite her victory, Cllr Law, who polled 2,474 votes, is only guaranteed eight months because the seat comes up for re-election next June. But she insisted:

"I'm definitely in it for the long run and will stand again."

She had come under fire from other candidates for not living in the town and confessed:

"It upset me because I am as passionate about Herne Bay as the next person. John and I were under police protection for two years because we campaigned for the new Thanet Way bypass. I have been championing Herne Bay since before my kids were born."

The by-election had been dubbed a two-horse race but Cllr Flaherty, with 1,524 votes, finished almost 1,000 votes behind her rival. She warned:

"I'm obviously a bit sad but we'll be back in June for another fight. The turn-out was disappointing. I would have thought the people of Herne Bay would have been more pro-active in voting for their county council representative. But I've congratulated Jean on her victory. She worked very hard. I've also been working hard since the election was declared so I'm quite looking forward to putting my feet up. I need to do some housework and spend time with my family. My boys are starving."

Despite languishing in second place, Cllr Flaherty was miles ahead of the remaining three candidates. Labour's Michael Britton polled 537 with Mr Whiting picking up 399 for the BNP. UKIP's Brian Macdowall was busy sunning himself in the Caribbean when his 252 votes were counted. Results:

  • Conservative: Jean Law – 2,473
  • Liberal Democrats: Margaret Flaherty – 1,524
  • Labour: Michael Britton – 537
  • British National Party: Dennis Whiting – 399
  • UK Independence Party: Brian Macdowall – 252

thisiskent 17th Oct 2008

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