Labour was a shoe-in on election night

Kate Taylor makes her acceptance speech as Plymouth’s (and possibly the country’s) youngest councillor (18).

LABOUR rose to new heights in Plymouth this week … on rose-red heels of neck-breaking proportions.

At the election count in the Guildhall on Thursday night a series of Labour women, resplendent in party colours, made their intentions plain early on: they were going to walk all over the Tories.

The scarlet bolero jackets and the crimson skirts were striking enough – but it was those six-inch stilettos that must have made Vivien Pengelly’s Conservative councillors most nervous.

Inside the Guildhall the count began minutes after the polling stations closed at 10pm on Thursday.

The first boxes arrived from the Methodist church around the corner, and soon ballot forms were spread formlessly across the tables. At first they gave no clue to the untutored about what the night held.

Frowning politicians clutched scraps of paper, sampling the results from a handful of the thousands of papers. We already knew what the opinion polls were saying about Labour’s chances – but this was the only opinion poll that counted.

If veterans like Mrs Pengelly were worried, they concealed it well.

The first to crack was Peter Brookshaw, the current Lord Mayor of Plymouth. Eight years ago Mr Brookshaw won his seat in Eggbuckland ward by just a solitary vote. He was clearly nervous – and that was before he spotted Labour’s Kate Taylor sitting nearby in her wicked red heels.

“It could go any way,” he told me. “Labour … UKIP … me….” But his eyes told another story.

The first result to be declared settled Tory nerves slightly. At 12:35 Dr David Salter held his seat in Plympton Chaddlewood.

But then the good news stumbled. A succession of Labour victors trooped up to the podium to make their acceptance speeches (not all were wearing killer heels, it has to be said).

For Peter Brookshaw the agony dragged on, and on. By the time his result was declared at 1.38am (yup, he lost), his party had already been kicked out of the driving seat.

And then Labour’s new councillors trooped down the Guildhall stairs and out into the night.

The clicking of their heels on the hard floors will surely dominate Tory nightmares for the next few weeks.

A version of this article first appeared in The Herald on May 5, 2012.


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