Apathy reigns as voters stay home

Sajjad Hussain and councillor Melanie Whitehand
THUMBS UP - Sajjad Hussain and councillor Melanie Whitehand

APATHY, disillusionment, lack of conviction… whatever the reason, it was a poor turnout at the polls on ­Thursday when just over a third of Woking’s electorate bothered to vote.

At the count on Friday, of the 57,000 or so residents ­eligible, only 35 per cent had put their mark on the ballot paper to elect the 12 ward seats out of 36 up for grabs in the borough council offices.

Conservative Sajjad Hussain defeated Lib-Dem candidate Lisa Harding in Knaphill.

Those councillors standing again were all re-elected, including Goldsworth West’s Ian Eastwood who has held his Lib-Dem position for 21 years. New candidate Kevin Davis held on to the Tory seat in Brookwood.

Overall, the Tories gained a seat and the Lib-Dems lost one, making it a 21 to 15 ratio in the council, with no Labour seats.

Re-elected Lib-Dem councillor Amanda Coulson said: “There were a lot of surprises on the night for all parties.

The Conservatives thought they would gain three or four seats and were shell-shocked that I had won. But my Tory ­opponent Colin Kemp was complimentary about it and thanked me for a good run.

“Although we lost a seat, our votes had gone up four per cent and the Tories’ had dropped five per cent, while Labour flatlined.”

[pullquote]Although we lost a seat, our votes had gone up four per cent and the Tories’ had dropped five per cent, while Labour flatlined.[/pullquote]

Tensions heightened when it came to the Maybury and Sheerwater count.

It was the closest Labour got to gaining a seat but, after much deliberation as the results were verified and then recounted twice, the close call was announced that Lib-Dem candidate Mohammed Bashir had managed to hold on to his seat by only 16 votes against Labour’s Mohammad Ali, who got 1,072.

Conservative borough council leader John Kingsbury said: “It was an excellent result for Woking Conservatives where we retained all five seats we were defending with good margins and won Knaphill from the Lib-Dems with a majority in excess of 700. Our candidate Saj is a popular choice.”

NEW Tory councillor Sajjad Hussain gained the Knaphill seat from the Liberal Democrats with a majority of more than 700 votes.

His was the only gain in the May 3 elections and means the political balance in the ­Woking Borough Council offices will shift from 20 Conservative councillors to 21, while the Liberal Democrats go down to 15. There are no ­Labour seats on the council.

Sub-postmaster Saj, 54, runs the post office in Knaphill’s High Street, and said of his ­victory: “I have been here for 27 years so I know a lot of people in the area. But I was really surprised that many of them who usually have other political loyalties voted for me. I think it must be a personal thing.”

When asked about his ­Liberal Democrat opponent, Lisa ­Harding, he said: “We had a good ­relationship in that we were courteous to each other.

“Lisa said ‘Let’s have a clean fight – no mud-slinging’ – and we did. “She was a good ­candidate and I wish her luck in the ­future.”

Saj was helped on his political path by a stalwart in the community, Bernard Wright, who, at 85, sadly passed away a week before the elections.

He added: “I met Bernard at a Conservative Party meeting last year. Leader of the borough council John Kingsbury ­introduced me to him because I’d shown an interest in becoming a candidate.

“It sort of went from there, ­although Bernard, who was chairman of the Bisley, Knaphill and West End branch of the Royal British Legion, said: ‘Welcome – but the British Legion comes first. The poppy appeal takes priority over ­everything!’”

It wasn’t until after Christmas that Saj’s campaign really got going. He explained: “Since then it was really full scale, non-stop working. He was the best ­campaign manager I’ve ever known and all his hard work paid off.

“I took on board everything Bernard said and had total faith in him. I just wish he was here to see the results. I miss him more than ever.”

But Saj did get a helping hand from Bernard’s family.

“Bernard’s daughter Jane Harrison and her two children did us proud by allowing the Knaphill Conservatives branch team to use Bernard’s house as an election office,” he said.

“I would like to thank the team and, in particular, Knaphill Councillor Melanie Whitehand, who has been my mentor and guide over the past year, and ­especially in the last week building up to the elections.

Saj went to Maybury ­Primary School and Horsell County ­Secondary (now Woking High) and got married in 1978 to Taslum Kausar.

They have four children aged between 23 and 34 and two grandchildren.

He added: “I am looking ­forward to working alongside Melanie and want to make Knaphill a cleaner, safer place for residents.

“The first thing I will be ­doing is putting in a motion for a war memorial in Knaphill to remember the veterans by.

“I’d also like to thank ­everybody in Knaphill and I will do my utmost to live up to their expectations over the next four years.”

Woking Borough Council May 3
election results

Brookwood – Con Hold
Kevin Davis (Con) 468
Norman Johns (Lib-Dem) 123
Rebecca Geach (Lab) 74
Turnout: 34.88 per cent

Byfleet – Lid-Dem Hold
Anne Roberts (Lib-Dem) 952
Carol Brailsford (Con) 644
Anthony Mullins (Lab) 138
Mathew Waters (UKIP) 128
Turnout: 33.16 per cent

Goldsworth East – Lib-Dem Hold
Amanda Coulson (Lib-Dem) 783
Colin Kemp (Con) 680
Tom Crisp (Lab) 350
Pamela Wellstead (UKIP) 168
Turnout: 34.41 per cent

Goldsworth West – Lib-Dem Hold
Ian Eastwood (Lib-Dem) 515
Laura Ashall (Con) 270
Janice Worgan (Lab) 160
Turnout: 24.87 per cent

Horsell East and Woodham – Con Hold
Michael Smith (Con) 905
James Sanderson (Lib-Dem) 188
Terry Knight (UKIP) 154
Jill Rawling (Lab) 143
Turnout: 37.47 per cent

Horsell West – Con Hold
Tony Branagan (Con) 1,096
Rosemary Johnson (Lib-Dem) 592
Colin Bright (Lab) 215
Timothy Shaw (UKIP) 196
Turnout: 39.11 oer cent

Kingfield and Westfield – Lib-Dem Hold
Derek McCrum (Lib-Dem) 574
Paul Brown (Lab) 326
John Lawrence (Con) 304
Rob Burberry (UKIP) 149
Julie Roxburgh (Peace Party) 34
Turnout: 34.33 per cent

Knaphill – Con Gain from Lib-Dem
Saj Hussain (Con) 1,327
Lisa Harding (Lib-Dem) 593
Matthew Davies (UKIP) 273
Peter Ford (Lab) 254
Turnout: 34.89 per cent

Maybury and Sheerwater – Lib-Dem Hold
Mohammed Bashir (Lib-Dem) 1,088
Mohammad Ali (Lab) 1,072
Razor Babar (Con) 685
David Roe (UKIP) 345
Turnout: 43.93 per cent

Mount Hermon East – Con Hold
David Bittleston (Con) 898
Michael Wilson (Lib-Dem) 253
Sabir Hussain (Lab) 143
Turnout: 34.05 per cent

Mount Hermon West – Lib-Dem Hold
Ian Johnson (Lib-Dem) 691
Colin Scott (Con) 510
Elizabeth Evans (Lab) 130
Francis Squire (UKIP) 102
Turnout: 31.57 per cent

Pyrford – Con Hold
Ashley Bowes (Con) 1,041
Andy Grimshaw (Lib-Dem) 287
Robin Milner (UKIP) 199
Michael Wood (Lab) 111
Turnout: 41.26 per cent

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