BNP left choking as Labour increases stranglehold by gaining four seats

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LABOUR yesterday increased its grip on Rotherham Council, taking an additional four seats and wiping out the BNP altogether.

The result means that Rotherham now has 58 Labour councillors – up from 54 – four Tories and just one Independent.

In what was an excellent night for Labour nationally, the party took 19 of the 21 seats that were up for grabs in the town.

Labour’s Margaret Godfrey took a seat from the BNP in the Maltby ward, while Shabana Ahmed became South Yorkshire’s first female Asian councillor when she clinched the Brinsworth and Catcliffe ward with a huge majority, gaining almost twice as many votes as the second-placed BNP candidate.

The Brinsworth and Catcliffe seat won by Coun Ahmed was previously held by the BNP’s John Gamble, who was sacked from the council last December for failing to attend meetings.

He was elected for the BNP in May 2008 and later switched to the England First party and then the National Front, but didn’t attend any council meetings for six months before being removed by the authority.

There was no election to replace him last year, as he was removed within six months of this week’s elections.

A York University student also became Rotherham Council’s youngest member yesterday, at the age of just 21.

Labour’s Lauren Astbury campaigned in the Hellaby ward while completing her dissertation, and took the seat from sitting Conservative ward councillor John Turner.

She said: “I just want to do the best for people in Hellaby. I’m looking forward to the work – it’s going to be a total change from university.”

The only two winners last night not to be wearing red rosettes were independent Clive Jepson, who scored a 93-vote margin over Labour’s Darren Hughes in Anston and Woodsetts, and Conservative Christopher Middleton, who beat Labour candidate Tajamal Khan to take Sitwell ward by 281 votes.

Council leader Roger Stone said he was “ecstatic” over the gains made by Labour.