Conservatives hold on in 'Breckland bellwether' vote

Conservative councillor Paul Plummer

Newly-elected Conservative councillor for Mattishall, Paul Plummer - Credit: Noah Vickers/Local Democracy Reporting Service

It was billed as the 'Breckland bellwether' - the UK's first electoral test for the Conservatives since the vote of no-confidence in leader Boris Johnson. And in the end the party held on in the Mattishall by-election.

The vote, to elect a new member to Breckland Council, had been anticipated as an early indication of whether the Tories' handling of the scandal over lockdown parties at Downing Street would have an impact at the local level.

Although the Conservative candidate, Paul Plummer, kept the seat, the party's majority was greatly reduced.

Maggie Oeschle is standing as an independent candidate in Breckland Council's Mattishall ward by-election

Independent candidate Maggie Oechsle - Credit: Supplied by the candidate's agent

He received 539 votes (42pc), a majority of just 53 over independent candidate Maggie Oechsle, who received 486 votes (38pc).

In third place was Labour candidate Kendra Cogman, who received 260 votes (20%).

Kendra Cogman

Labour candidate Kendra Cogman - Credit: Submitted

In a visibly emotional victory speech, Mr Plummer said: “Can I thank Maggie, Kendra and all the team. It’s been a really lovely election, everybody’s been so friendly.”

He referred to the fact that he will be coming up for re-election in May 2023.

“We’ve only got about 11 months, and we’ll probably all be here together again.”

Vox Pops in Mattishall about the local election.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

All Saints Church in Mattishall. The area has a new district councillor. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

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Mr Plummer, who lives in Garvestone, said he was “really relieved and excited to start looking after all the people in the Mattishall ward”.

He said he hoped to focus on issues like ensuring new developments in villages aren’t too large, improving the area’s drainage, and building - in as environmentally-passive a way as possible - more social housing.

In 2019, two Conservative candidates were elected in the ward. The lower-placed of those, Paul Claussen, had a majority of 338 over the next placed candidate, independent Pablo Dimoglou.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen during his meeting with the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kal

Prime minister Boris Johnson survived a confidence vote on Monday. - Credit: PA

Asked why the Conservative majority was so reduced, Mr Plummer said: “I think there’s a little bit of apathy at the moment in politics, with what’s been advertised, nationally. 

“Hopefully, if we can get over all the little problems that we’ve had, we can look forward to better things.”

Ms Oechsle said she was "naturally disappointed but thank all 486 people who voted for me which shows the inroads made into the substantial Conservative majority at the 2019 local election...

"It paves the way for a real battle in the district council elections next year but in the meantime I offer congratulations to Paul Plummer."