"We won't let you down!" -- the promise from jubilant Ashfield Independents
“We won’t let you down!” That’s the promise from the jubilant Ashfield Independents after their triumphant clean sweep on election day.
The party won all ten seats within Ashfield at the Nottinghamshire County Council elections, gaining five from the Conservatives and landing some by huge margins.
It came only six years after the party was formed by Coun Jason Zadrozny, and only two years after they swept into power at Ashfield District Council.
And with Ashfield Independents fast becoming a political phenomenon, their buoyant leader vowed to repay the electorate’s faith.
"We will speak up loudly and proudly for our area,” said Coun Zadrozny. “We will challenge the new Conservative administration and make sure they don’t forget places like Sutton, Kirkby, Hucknall and Selston.
"From this week, we will start reporting potholes and fighting for children’s services and everything else we are passionate about.
"We have smashed every seat in Ashfield, and we thank everyone who put their faith in us. We won’t let you down.”
The clean sweep for Ashfield Independents comprised victories in the wards of Sutton North, Sutton West, Sutton Central and East, Kirkby North, Kirkby South, Selston, Ashfields, Hucknall North, Hucknall South and Hucknall West.
They are now the third largest party at County Hall, with the Conservatives taking 37 seats, of a total of 66, to regain power and Labour dropping from 23 seats to 15.
When asked about the secret behind the success of the fledgling party, Coun Zadrozny pointed to two things.
"It’s dead simply really,” he said. “We genuinely work hard all year round, and we always communicate with our residents.
"Because we have been in power in the district for two years, we have been able to show what a difference we can make.
"We have proved that a local, hard-work approach changes stuff. We play conversational politics, and we try our best to deliver.
"It’s easy to be swept up by national politics, but with their local councillor, people know they have someone on their side, and it has been rewarded at the ballot box.
"It’s really heartwarming and humbling that we have not only won these seats but also won some by massive margins.”
Coun Zadrozny is clearly the driving force behind Ashfield Independents, and the results represented another feather in the cap for the 40-year-old Kirkby man who must now be considered one of the big beasts in Nottinghamshire’s political jungle.
The former Ashfield Comprehensive School pupil who gained qualifications in performance art and theatre studies at West Nottinghamshire College first made his name with the Liberal Democrats.
In 2007, he won a county council by-election with a 44 per cent swing and then, at the age of 26, he became the youngest council leader in the UK as the Lib Dems secured control of Ashfield Council.
Labour regained authority two years later, but Coun Zadrozny came within a whisker, in 2010, of becoming Ashfield’s MP, losing by only 192 votes to Gloria De Piero.
Things turned sour for him in 2015 when he was arrested and charged with historical child sex offences, and he left the Lib Dems.
But he bounced back by launching Ashfield Independents, and the allegations against him were eventually dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, which offered no evidence.
The rest is history for the party, which has gone from strength to strength at district and county council levels, bolstered by defections from Labour.
Two years ago, Ashfield Independents won 30 of the 35 seats on offer at the district council, while Coun Zadrozny again went close in a General Election, finishing second with 27.6 per cent of the vote.
He must now consider whether to stand for Parliament for a third occasion in three or four years’ time.
"It’’s a long way away, and I have to take time to think about it,” he said. “It is a huge commitment, not just for me but also for my family and friends.
"However, it is clear Ashfield Independents would do very well. in the Parliamentary constituency last week, we polled 13,500 votes, while the Tories got 7,000 and Labour 5,000.”
A Brexit supporter, Coun Zadrozny is currently the leader of Ashfield Council, where its councillors include all ten of his party’s victors in last week’s county council elections.
Coun Zadrozny, who won the Ashfields seat, is joined at County Hall by Samantha Deakin, Helen Ann Smith and Tom Hollis, who won in Sutton, Daniel Williamson and Andy Meakin from Kirkby, David Martin from Selston and the trio of John Wilmott, David Shaw and Lee Waters from Hucknall.
Coun Martin scrambled home by only 11 votes in Selston, but other victory margins were overwhelming, with Coun Williamson taking Kirkby South by 2,074 votes to 802, Samantha Deakin romping home in Sutton Central and East by 1,737 to 600, Coun Meakin making Kirkby North his own by 2,036 votes to 454, Coun Smith landing Sutton North by 2,233 to 834 and Coun Zadrozny himself winning with a margin of almost 1,300.
In six of the ten wards, the Ashfield Independents helped to push Labour into third place.
Indefatigable veteran Coun Wilmott pulled off one of the most notable results by hitting for six former county council chairman, Kevin Rostance, by 1,866 votes to 733 in Hucknall North.
The former pet-shop owner was one of two Hucknall winners for Ashfield Independents who are ex-members of the Labour Party – the other being Coun Shaw.
Coun Wilmott quit Labour in 2015 after he was de-selected by the party as an Ashfield Council candidate. Famously, he claimed he had been “dumped like a sack of old potatoes”.
To cap a memorable polling day for Ashfield Independents last week, they also won two Ashfield Council by-elections. Jamie Bell hammered Labour in Annesley and Kirkby Woodhouse, claiming 74.9 per cent of the votes, while Will Bostock picked up the Skegby seat with a 58.8 per cent share.