Congratulations to Tashi Tamang Bhutia, a Gurkha, on his extraordinary victory in Medway’s Luton and Wayfield by-election in Medway last night. He took 1042 votes to Labour’s 1038 in a ward where Labour secured twice the vote we did as recently as 2007.
I first met Tashi eight years ago when canvassing in the Chatham part of what was then the Medway constituency. He immediately joined the party and has worked loyally for us ever since.
At the third time of trying he is now a councillor, knocking Labour out of one of their safest seats in Medway (and probably the whole of the South-East).
Tashi’s victory is first and foremost testament to his decency, honesty and modesty.
Second, it reflects many core-Labour voters coming out for Tashi because of how they felt about Gordon Brown doing everything he could to deny Gurkhas fair treatment in the UK. Helpfully, the two Labour ward councillors who remained in post gave this as one of their reasons for resigning the Labour whip.
Third, the result is a huge personal defeat for Jonathan Shaw, the constituency’s MP, who insisted on imposing a candidate against the better judgment of many in the local Labour party. Jonathan’s face was redder than his rosette in his lonely vigil at the count, as well it might have been in light of the shocking comments made by his chosen candidate.
Finally, it seems that council taxpayers have voted for substantial savings in councillor allowances. Labour have now been reduced to such a rump, 10 out of 55 seats in the Medway Towns, a conurbation of a quarter of a milllion people, that their spokesmen may all lose their special responsibility allowances.
Many thanks to my council colleagues and activists from Rochester and Strood who gave six weeks of sustained campaign support. We hope that this will benefit Tracey Crouch in her fight against Jonathan, just as it helped Tashi to whom I owe so much.
We are delighted that Daniel Hannan MEP will be coming to Rochester and Strood on Saturday to lead our celebrations with Tashi.