Lib Dems take 'bittersweet' win in by-election after death of popular Newcastle councillor

By Daniel Holland

The Liberal Democrats celebrated a “bittersweet” victory in a by-election called after the death of one of Newcastle's most respected councillors.

Anita Lower, former leader of the city’s Lib Dems, died in July at the age of 63.

During a quarter of a century serving Newcastle residents, she had been the first woman to serve as deputy leader of Newcastle City Council and leader of the opposition.

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A by-election to fill the vacancy in her Castle ward was held on Thursday, with Thom Campion successfully holding the seat for the Lib Dems.

Afterwards, he said: “It is bittersweet. We didn’t want to be having this election, we would be much happier if Anita was still with us and alongside me.

“Being the absolute storm that she was and standing up for residents in the way that she did, I am honoured that they have chosen to put their faith in me.

“I now have to follow in her footsteps and step into the biggest shoes possible.”

Mr Campion, who recently apologised for a series of offensive tweets posted when he was 14, told ChronicleLive that voters in the outskirts of Newcastle felt “like the council just does not work for them anymore, they feel like they don’t matter”.

Anita Lower, who died in July (Newcastle Journal)

The 23-year-old won by a comfortable margin, with his 1,306 votes putting him more than 500 ahead of Labour in second, while the Conservatives finished third.

The Lib Dems continue to hold all three seats in the sprawling Castle ward, which covers the villages of Brunswick, Hazlerigg, and Dinnington as well as sections of the Newcastle Great Park and Kingston Park.

There was disappointment for the Tories as the ballots were counted at Newcastle Civic Centre late on Thursday night, with the party having hoped to claim a first election victory in Newcastle since 1992.

Their candidate, John Watts, said: “We will continue to work and try to right what we think is a significant historic wrong of not having any Conservatives on Newcastle City Council.”

The overall political makeup of the city council is now: Labour 52, Lib Dem 20, three Newcastle Independents and three independents.

Castle ward by-election result:

Thom Campion (Lib Dems) - 1306

Andrew Herridge (Labour) - 773

Brian Moore (North East Party) - 89

Andrew Thorp (Green) - 250

John Watts (Conservative) - 657

Turnout: 31.13%

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