Local elections Bricklayer and former community centre manager among independents who stormed

A bricklayer incensed by his local council’s destruction of a memorial tree and a former community centre manager inspired into politics by watching Question Time are among candidates who stormed the local elections as independents.Labour councillors were ousted from their heartlands and Conservatives lost some 1,300 seats yesterday – the party’s worst local election result since 1995.More than 900 independent councillors were elected and six councils are now controlled by independents and other parties.The Telegraph spoke to two politicians who secured big wins at the ballot box about what inspired them to take a stand.The Labour heartland of Bolsover in Derbyshire was taken over by independent councillors in an unprecedented victory.Ross Walker is one of the newly-elected independents in the district, which has been a Labour stronghold for the past 40 years.The 48-year-old bricklayer got into politics after the council cut down a sycamore tree which had been planted as a tribute to his late grandfather.He was so outraged that he decided to stand as a councillor.Mr Walker told The Telegraph about his previous run-ins with the local authorities – notably his bitter fight to get a park bench erected so his elderly father had somewhere to sit while he was babysitting his daughters. “We have twin girls and there was nowhere for him to sit while he was looking after them,” he said. “So I went to the council to request a bench – and it took four months to get one.”He added: “And we planted a memorial tree for my grandfather and only found out the council were removing it when they nailed a sign to it saying ‘we are removing this tree’. They didn’t contact us.”Addressing the independent election storm in Bolsover, he said: “I was expecting to get a seat but not what has actually happened. I’m in shock and it is absolutely fantastic.”I think the Labour Party has treated people disrespectfully and there has been no line of communication.”The majority of people are disgusted because nobody is listening to their concerns.”But things are going to change now. I’m hoping this is the first step People will see what a council can do and what can be achieved. They will see what they have been missing.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Mr Zadrozny said he was “delighted” with Ashfield Independent’s substantial gains.He said: “Obviously it is incredible for us and we are over the moon.  Ashfield Independents celebrate their win at the ballot box Ashfield Independents celebrate their win at the ballot box The party was able to capitalise on what they saw as local MP Gloria de Piero’s “flip-flopping” on Brexit. Nearly 70 per cent of Ashfield voters opted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum.Jason Zadrozny, 38, who has led Ashfield Independents for a year, told The Telegraph he first knew he wanted to get into politics after watching BBC’s political discussion show Question Time.”I have been a councillor for 12 years and was first elected in March 2007, but I was a community centre manager for the first three years after I left university,” he said.”Ashfield has very high areas of deprivation and I saw there was a gap between the council and the local support offered.”At the time I was more interested in what I was doing – talking to people who felt unsupported.”But I was watching Question Time on the TV one night and realised that practically no one was talking any sense or answering the questions.”That was what ultimately got me into politics. It sort of snowballed from there.” “We were expecting a good night but not that many seats, and we weren’t expecting to win by such a huge majority. My own majority was bigger than my entire result in the last local election.”He said Ashfield Independents reached out to voters and fought the “huge Labour machine” by returning to “old-fashioned politics”.”Yes we pushed leaflets through doors, but we also spoke to thousands of people. There are about 120,000 residents in Ashfield and between January 1 2018 and January 1 2019 we spoke to 75,000 people in face-to-face conversations.”There was enormous anger about Brexit. People were very, very upset and the mood was strange. I think we almost created a perfect storm.”People are incredibly annoyed and distrustful of the national parties now. I think we have been able to regain trust locally that has been lost nationally. We offered a positive alternative.” In Nottinghamshire, the Ashfield Independents – a party which didn’t exist four years ago – took 30 of the 35 available seats, leaving just three Conservative and two Labour councillors in office. read more

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