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Teenager takes East Devon council seat for Labour

Friday, July 9th, 2021 7:14am

By Joe Ives, local democracy reporter

Jake Bonetta is East Devon's first Labour councillors since anyone can remember

Two by-elections tweak make-up of district

Labour has taken a seat on East Devon District Council for the first time in a generation, after a teenage candidate impressed voters.

In two by-elections on Thurday – one in Feniton and one in Honiton St Michael’s – both seats changed hands.  The Conservatives took one; Labour the other.

Feniton changes from Indepenent to Conservative after Tory Alaisdair Bruce took the seat with 239 votes. Labour’s Linda Baden gained 126 and Liberal Democrat Todd Olive came in third with 82. The turnout was 21 per cent. Independent Susie Bond previously held the seat before resigning after moving to Berkshire to be closer to family. 

Jake Bonetta (Labour) won Honiton St Michael’s with 807 votes. Conservative Jenny Brown was second with 522 votes whilst Liberal Democrat Jules Hoyles received 63. The turnout was 25 per cent. Liberal Democrat Luke Jeffrey previously held the seat before resigning to focus on his university studies.

The make-up of the council is now: 

Conservatives (22)

East Devon Alliance (13)

Independents (15)

Liberal Democrats (7)

Green Party (2)

Labour (1)

Jake Bonetta is expected to join the governing coalition the Democratic Alliance, currently made up of the East Devon Alliance, Liberal Democrats, Greens and independents.

Mr Bruce’s win is the second by-election victory gain of the year for the Conservatives, following Richard Lawrence’s victory in Whimple & Rockbeare  in May.

Just 19 years-old, Mr Bonetta is now the youngest member of East Devon Council. It was a very good night for Labour, who haven’t held a seat at the council for over two decades. 

Speaking after the count Councillor Bonetta said: “It’s an astounding victory for the community and I want to thank every single person who got involved in my campaign and entrusted me with their votes.

“I really will work for everyone, no matter how you voted. I think it’s so important that I’m there to represent every single person in Honiton St Michael’s.”

“I think that my young age is an asset. I think it brings new life to the council. I think it brings new perspective and on top of that I think it’s so important that young people do get involved in politics.”

Alasdair Bruce was not present at the count to comment.

Speaking after the elrection council leader (Independent East Devon Alliance) Paul Arnott said: “As leader of East Devon Council it is my absolute determination to work with successful candidates from all party backgrounds and I look forward to working with Alaisdar for Feniton and Jake for Honiton. I’m sure they’ll both give eminent service.”

Conservative Jenny Brown, who missed out in Honiton St Michael’s said: “We worked hard. Jake was a worthy opponent and he’s got the town at heart as well – and so have I, and I’m going to be back!”

Labour’s Linda Baden, who lost in Feniton, stayed hopeful: “I think it shows we have a possibility of actually attracting many more votes to the Labour Party, which I think is really positive.”

Lib Dem candidate Todd Olive said: “Obviously my thanks, my gratitude to the 82 voters who put their trust in me to represent them at the district council.”

“Congratulations to Alasdair Bruce, the victor. I hope he serves the residents well, listens to their interests and acts on the urgent issues of our time.”

​​​​​​​Councillor Alasdair Bruce represents Feniton

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