Jake Bonetta (left) has become the first Labour candidate to be elected to East Devon District Council in decades. Jake beat the Tory, Jenny Brown, decisively, by 807 to 522, with the Lib Dem trailing on 63.
In the other by-election, in Feniton, the Tories took over from Tory-leaning Independent, Susie Bond, who has left the area. The overall result of these two by-elections is therefore to leave the balance on EDDC essentially unchanged.
These results show that voters will respond to a strong progressive candidate with an energetic campaign. Especially in a by-election, when turnout is low (only 25 per cent in Honiton, 21 per cent in Feniton) and many Tories stay at home, seats can be taken from the Tories. In Feniton, neither Labour nor Lib Dems seriously challenged.
Labour will rightly feel encouraged, but in a full Council election, in the glare of national campaigns, when more voters turn out and they like other parties will be stretched to challenge across a wide range of seats, no one party is the answer. We will need a progressive alliance to achieve the best results across the district, building on the cooperation between East Devon Alliance, Lib Dems and Greens at EDDC, in which I hope Labour will now also be involved.
In 2019, after all, a stronger Lib Dem candidate had won the Honiton seat. Progressive voters will rally around the best candidate and party in each situation. I am sure that many, like me, will have voted for all the main alternatives to the Tories. Obviously, I have supported good Independents from EDA in recent local elections, but in national elections over the last decade I have voted Lib Dem, Green and Labour, depending on the situation.
In 2023, we face new elections for EDDC, but Johnson could also call a general election. Finding strong progressive challengers for the new East Devon constituencies, Honiton and Exmouth, will need to be addressed over the next year.