Election 2012
Labour win but come under fire from axed Nellist

By Matthew Bates 04/05 Updated: 04/05 16:48

JUST two parties are active on the city council as Labour tightened its grip on Coventry in the local elections.

The leading group gained eight seats in Thursday's vote, taking their tally to 43 of the 54 council seats.

Conservative supporters endured a miserable night as the party held just three of the nine seats it had won back in 2008.

Others to fall included sole Liberal Democrat Russell Field, who left before the result was even confirmed, and stalwart activist and former city MP Dave Nellist - the highest-profile councillor to be axed.

The Socialist candidate lost his St Michaels seat to Labour's Naeem Akhtar ending a 14-year stint on the council. Turnout in the ward was just 21 per cent - the lowest of a number of low figures across the city as driving rain and pure apathy turned voters away from the polls.

Mr Nellist slammed leading-group Labour in a passionate speech following his defeat and said he would carry on fighting the cuts being seen in public services throughout the city.

He told the Observer: "Labour put a tremendous amount of resources into St Michaels to try and defeat their left-wing critic of the cuts agenda.

"It's a pity they didn't spend half as much time in immobilising the people of Coventry against the cuts agenda coming from the Tory coalition in London.

"The number of Labour activists that have gathered around the St Michaels' counting area has been twice as many than at any other table in the whole hall.

"That speaks volumes about how Labour has changed and what excites them - it's not about beating the Tories, it's about getting rid of a critic on the council trying to argue against the cuts."

A swathe of new Labour councillors were elected, with just a pocket of Conservatives remaining in the south and south west of the city.

One new Labour councillor, Jayne Innes said the results proved the party had recovered.

"The rain was coming down in sheets and we thought that was a bad sign for Labour.

"But I must have spoken to up to 500 people on doorsteps today alone - we found the Labour support we had lost in recent years was back with us.

"And now even those who were undecided in the past are with Labour - it's very encouraging."

Further punishment for the Conservatives saw Labour sneak into Bablake after a split vote between ex-Tory councillor John Gazey, who was deselected for the election, and new candidate Jaswant Singh Birdi.

But a hint of consolation came in the form of an increased majority for Allan Andrews in Earlsdon. He said the election had come at a difficult time for the party and he was humbled to serve another four years in the ward.

There were also strong holds in both Cheylesmore - for Hazel Noonan - and Wainbody - for John Blundell.

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