Cleadon and East Boldon by-election: New Tory councillor says he's 'a Green with a Conservative tag' after winning vote
Voters have elected a new councillor for the Cleadon and East Boldon ward following a tense by-election last night.
Councillor Stan Wildhirt said he hoped to do the role justice after emerging victorious for the South Tyneside Conservatives in a by-election on Thursday, September 9.
Despite a reduced turnout compared to the May 2021 elections, South Tyneside Conservatives won the contest with a slim majority of just 46 votes over the Green Party.
Newly elected Cllr Wildhirt thanked voters for their support but stressed he had a “duty to represent all residents whether they voted for me or not.”
“I’m passionate about the environment I would say just as much as the Greens are really, I’m a Green with a Conservative tag,” he said.
“I hope that I can make a contribution in the council chambers and as I said to a Labour councillor tonight, although we’re from different political parties we’re not enemies because we all want the same thing.
“We all want the best for our constituents not only in our wards but also for the whole of South Tyneside – we sometimes just have different ways of going about it and different ideas on how to achieve it.”
Cllr Wildhirt said it was important for more opposition voices to provide “alternative opinions” and to question and hold council leaders and council officers to account.
He added that one of his biggest priorities included protecting the Green Belt and providing more opportunities for entrepreneurs across the borough.
The new Conservative councillor said: “South Tyneside is unfortunately one of the poorer areas in the country and I would like to see much more effort put into creating not only jobs but well-paid jobs.
“I have a varied background from being in the Army, fire brigade and as a businessman, I started with nothing and I ended up selling two of my businesses to Mike Ashley, who everybody obviously has heard of, and then I ran Lonsdale Boxing for him after I sold him my businesses.
“So consequently I have a great interest in business and one of my priorities is to promote business and make it easier for entrepreneurs to get a chance to start their own businesses.
“Because for a young person or youngish person who may be married and may have kids, it’s a massive leap to leave a steady job and take a chance in business – so everybody needs a bit of a hand.
“Without business and without attracting jobs we’re not going to get the prosperity that South Tyneside deserves.”
Cllr Wildhirt added: “I’m very grateful and very humbled by the fact that so many people put their trust in me.
“My biggest fear is that I don’t live up to the faith that they have put in me but I’m going to try.
“I have always done the best I can in everything I have done which is why I have managed to be successful – you can only get out of something what you put in.”
The by-election results were announced at Temple Park Leisure Centre with Conservative Stan Wildhirt receiving 989 votes followed by Green Party candidate David Herbert with 943 votes.
David Herbert welcomed the surge of support for the Greens and said he was confident the party could win at the next election.
“This by-election has dispelled the belief that a Green vote is a wasted vote, we’re very much able to win here and we have just proved that tonight,” he said.
“In the past a lot of people felt it was a two-horse race and we couldn’t get anywhere with it but this time around people realised we could get near to winning, which we did.
“A lot of people have said they want a balance in the council, there is no balance at the moment and no-one scrutinising and holding the Labour group to account.
“People have said they want change and want something different and we can offer that and we also offer independent voices, where councillors aren’t told how to vote.
“We as Greens are always allowed to vote the way we think would be best for our constituency.”
Elsewhere, first-time Labour Party candidate Philip Toulson received the third most votes with 886 but pledged to stand for election again in future.
He said one of his priorities continued to be a cycleway and walkway on Moor Lane, which would be a “win-win for the ward, the environment and young people.”
Speaking after the result, he added:“In this campaign I have been greatly supported by a fantastic Labour Party family both in the ward and in the borough and I would like to thank them for their support in every way, which has been physical, emotional and intellectual.”
He added: “I still think that the Labour Party message in the ward, which is that the Labour Party are the only ones that can really protect the Green Belt and really lead the sustainable growth of Cleadon and East Boldon, is the message that hopefully I will be putting across more powerfully and more effectively in future.”
The total turnout in the Cleadon and East Boldon by-election was 40.7% with 2,823 votes cast out of a total electorate of 6,936.
The victory is the second Conservative Party win in the ward in recent months, with Ian Forster taking a seat from Labour incumbent Jane Carter in the latest round of local elections in May 2021.
Following last night’s result, Conservatives now control two out of the three seats in the ward, with the remaining seat held by Labour.
The Labour Party still remains the biggest political party on South Tyneside Council with 45 seats out of a possible 54.
Other seats are filled by four Independents, three Greens and now, two Conservatives.
Results in full for the Cleadon and East Boldon by-election
David Herbert (Green Party) – 943
Philip Toulson (Labour Party) – 886
Stan Wildhirt (Conservative Party) – 989