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Lib Dems claim victory in Bedford mayor race

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Lib Dems claim victory in Bedford mayor race


Published by Anonymous for in Local Government

Lib Dems claim victory in Bedford mayor race Lib Dems claim victory in Bedford mayor race

A Liberal Democrat beat his Tory rival to become Bedford's new directly elected mayor today.

Four of the six original candidates were knocked out this morning and after a second count of voters' second preferences Dave Hodgson beat Parvez Akhtar, polling 13,555 votes to his rival's 11,543.

Mr Hodgson scooped 9,428 votes in the first round of the elections, with Tory candidate Mr Akhtar getting 9,105.

But after counts of voters' second preferences, the Liberal Democrat leader of the party in Bedford gained 4,127 votes to his opponent's 2,438.

Cheers from his supporters drowned out his declaration as mayor when the result was declared at Bedford's Corn Exchange this afternoon.

The victory, which comes just days after Mr Hodgson was visited by party leader Nick Clegg, makes the 49-year-old one of the most powerful Liberal Democrats in the country, controlling the unitary authority's multimillion-pound budget.

His party already controls the council, holding 13 seats compared to nine Conservatives, seven Labour and seven independents.

Speaking after his election, Mr Hodgson said: "I'm elated, and a bit nervous. It's a huge task to take on.

"We've got to get moving straightaway, there's no time to waste.

"This is a great result for the Lib Dems but there's an awful lot of work to be done."

Yesterday, voters visited polling stations to make their choice for the successor to Bedford's first elected mayor, independent Frank Branston, who died in August aged 70.

Earlier today, after a total of 35,807 votes - a turnout of 30.9% - were counted, the town's Labour candidate, James Valentine, was knocked out with just 3,482 votes.

Also unlucky in the race were independent candidates Apu Bagchi, who received 7,631 votes, and Tony Hare, who got 4,316 votes.

Green Party candidate Eve Robinson-Morley gained 1,183 votes.

Labour was the only one of the three major parties not to bring in the "big guns" in the run-up to the election.

Just days ago Mr Clegg visited Bedford to support his candidate, while Tory leader David Cameron came to the town to visit his candidate, Parvez Akhtar, on Monday.

Speaking after he was knocked out earlier today, Labour candidate Mr Valentine said: "It was a disappointing result, there's no hiding that.

"What I discovered on the doorstep was there was a great desire for an independent mayor."

Victorious Lib Dem Mr Hodgson became leader of his party in Bedford in 2007, steering it to victory at this year's local elections.

Today he said his main aim was to make Bedford a "great place to work and to live".

He added: "We shouldn't forget that this election has been brought by the very sad and untimely death of Frank Branston and it will be huge shoes to fill.

"I will do my very best to fulfil Frank's dreams for Bedford."



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