Something momentous just happened here.
For a long time, the people of our town have demanded to be heard. Nobody in power was listening. So, on Thursday, we turned out in record numbers to deliver our message at the ballot box. And that was the end of Tory Faversham.
When it came, the Conservatives’ extermination was so complete it surprised everyone. Not one single Tory was left representing Faversham on Town or Borough council. All gone. A clean sweep. Total wipeout.
Former Swale Tory Leader Andrew Bowles blamed his party’s annihilation on Brexit and the antics of Theresa May. As we saw from his glib responses to the racist retweet scandal, Bowles blames other people. It's what he does. But while she may be the most bone-headed and incompetent Prime Minister in living memory (a hotly contested field), neither May nor Brexit had any significant impact on the vote here in Faversham.
The simple fact is that this complacent bunch of preening, self-absorbed Tories brought their mass defeat upon themselves. By running Faversham as their personal fiefdom they dug their own graves gradually, over a generation. With each self-serving decision and every pompous, sneering display of contempt for the community, they edged closer to erasing themselves from power.
They squandered millions of pounds of rate payers’ hard earned money on vanity projects including the Shoe Shop/Town Hall and the war memorial. Meanwhile they presided over needless austerity, standing by as cultural and social facilities such as the library, the swimming pool and activities for the town’s teenagers were underfunded or neglected.
They ignored their legally binding obligations as councillors. They obstructed positive grass-roots initiatives.They were secretive. They were petty. They engaged in vendettas against their critics, attempting to silence them with legal threats or a knock on the door from the police. They refused to explain their decisions. They behaved as if they believed they were answerable to no one and entitled to run our town as they wished. In short, they forgot that they were part of a democratic process and instead treated the electors with disdain.
They have paid the price for their arrogance. The people of Faversham had enough. As a community, we turned out to vote in impressive numbers to make sure that we finally saw the back of them and their like – never to return again.
In their place, we have a new Liberal Democrat-led town council and Lib Dems, Labour and Greens representing us on Swale. Both groups are younger, more diverse, more than one third female and full of new faces. The Faversham Eye congratulates and welcomes them all.
These people represent Faversham’s best chance yet to fulfil the enormous potential of the most vibrant and creative town in Kent.
But they have an uphill task. The responsibilities are great, as will be pressures from central government, from powerful developers and local vested interests. The ongoing weekly interest payments on the Town Hall alone will put a big hole in the public purse. But they start with a clean sheet, noble aspirations and hopes we can all share.
Let’s all hope that our new council seizes this opportunity to achieve something amazing. Perhaps now traditional tribal politics can make way for a more inclusive, collaborative, cooperative way of doing things, with people from all parties working together as they did to unseat Andrew Bowles.
The Faversham Eye will play its part. Where the new council performs well in the interests of everyone, we will celebrate. When they fall short, we will hold them to account. A moment like this may not come along again. If they throw it away, they will never be forgiven.
The politics of the past should not define our future. Democracy has come to Faversham.
Let's make it work.
By Richard Fleury and Frank Monroe