Will Lewes seat prove to be an 'indicator of political opinion'?

Castle Ward in Lewes has become an unlikely hotspot for political heavyweights as parties vie for the town council seat in the forthcoming by-election.

MPs Peter Kyle and Rachel Reeves with the Labour candidate Emily Clarke
MPs Peter Kyle and Rachel Reeves with the Labour candidate Emily Clarke

Lib Dem, Labour, Conservative and Green parties are all fielding candidates for the seat vacated by Oli Henman, the former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate.

Mr Henman has moved away from Lewes for family reasons. Labour candidate Emily Clarke was joined on a campaign visit by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves - who was in Lewes for the annual Speakers Festival - and Shadow Northern Island Secretary and Hove MP, Peter Kyle.

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A window display in the party’s Lewes HQ was unveiled describing her community activism including testimonials from local residents about the work she has done such as founding the Landport Community Cafe and Lewes School Uniform Bank.

Rachel Reeves MP said: “It’s fantastic to be here with Emily today who I believe will make an excellent councillor and the first Labour councillor in Lewes for many years.

“She’s a great community activist. She volunteers at the local community cafe, runs a local business just at the heart of this community and as a local councillor she’ll be able to do so much more.”

Emily said: “It is great having Labour frontbenchers like Rachel and Peter here. It shows Labour is taking this by-election very seriously.

“At the last election I was only 17 votes short of being elected. It is now more important than ever for a distinct Labour voice to be heard on Lewes Town Council.”

Meanwhile Castle Ward’s LibDem candidate Emilia Gladhaugh has been joined on the campaign trail by Lewes District Council Deputy Leader and Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate, Cllr James MacCleary.

James stressed the difference between Lewes as a standalone town and the remainder of the constituency including coastal towns, Ringmer and the Downs.

He said: “My guess is that all parties see this by-election as an indicator of political opinion. There are important differences across the constituency with Lewes, a distinctive town with its own voice, compared with areas like Seaford and Newhaven which together field more than 40,000 voters.

“We feel what Lewes needs is someone who deals with what people actually want from their councillors such as ground-level action on local issues.

“Emilia is out and about and winning trust.

“I canvassed with her in Landport and saw the impact she has. She’s proving enormously popular and receives an enthusiastic welcome wherever she goes.”

The Lewes by-election is on Thursday, February 3. Candidates are: Emily Clarke, Labour. Emilia Gladhaugh, Liberal Democrat, Brenda Gough, Conservative, Milly Manley, Green - who is already district councillor for Castle Ward.