Dr Nik 'over the moon' after pulling off shock Labour victory
- Credit: LDRS
Dr Nik Johnson is the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
When the final votes were tallied, he had 113,994, compared to Tory Mayor James Palmer with 108,195.
The contest went to the wire and was only decided after Peterborough released its second preference votes to secure a Labour victory.
Shell shocked and clearly disappointed by the outcome, Mr Palmer hastily left the count at the Ross Peers sports centre where the result was declared.
It had gone to the wire.
Only after the final second preference votes were counted from Peterborough – the last district to release its voting tally – could Dr Nik be assured of victory.
It was a nail biting, tense day with Lib Dem challenger Aidan Van de Weyer eliminated after the first round of voting.
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He later tweeted: “While I am bitterly disappointed not to have got to the second round in the Cambs and Peterborough Mayoral election, I am pleased that Palmer will no longer be Mayor.
“He has let down our area. I look forward to working with Dr Johnson on behalf of all our residents.”
The triumphant doctor himself said after the win was secured that he was “over the moon and honoured”.
In his first interview after the result, he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I’m over the moon, and I feel hugely honoured to be the lad who came from the north east and ended up adopting Cambridgeshire as my home. And feeling the support across the county – I’m just delighted”.
His mum, Kath Johnson, who accompanied him to the count, said she is “very proud” of her son.
Reacting immediately after her son’s victory, she said: “I’m a bit overwhelmed. It’s been extraordinary. I was proud of him when he got to be a doctor and to have actually now, getting to a position like this, it’s just the icing on the cake. It’s a bit unbelievable, it’s a bit unreal at the moment. But I have every belief in him”.
Ironically had the Government gone ahead with their original plan, the second-choice voting system would have been abolished for this year’s mayoralty elections. Had that been so, then Mr Palmer would have won comfortably.
This is what the state of play looked like after the first round of voting.
Johnson (Labour and Co-Operative Party) 76,106
Palmer (Conservative) 93, 942
Van de Weyer (Liberal Democrats) 61,885
It meant that the third place Lib Dem was eliminated, and a second count, with second choice preferences coming into the equation.
Early results of second preference votes kept Mr Palmer ahead but the tide ebbed away from him as Cambridge City declared.
But Peterborough finally did it for him, with 80 per cent transferred and Labour secured 63 per cent of those.
It was, as political commentator Phil Rodgers observed, “ more than enough for victory”.
So what can we expect from the new mayor?
Firstly he will scupper many of the projects that James Palmer had advocated, including the contentious £100,000 homes project.
He said: “James Palmer claimed that he would be able to address the affordable housing crisis using his £100K homes scheme.
“He said that he would be able to build enough homes to meet all the demand for those needing affordable housing in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough using this scheme, offering homes at a guaranteed maximum of £100K per home.
“Sound too good to be true? Sadly, it is.”
Dr Johnson said: “Mr Palmer has been Mayor for the past four years so what is his record in delivering these homes?
“The answer is eight houses in Fordham in four years. Two houses per year. The waiting list for houses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is over two thousand families.
“At a rate of two houses per year, it would take Mr Palmer’s £100K scheme one thousand years to house these families”
He also criticised “£8 million in loans were taken for the building of these £100K homes from the precious £100 million central government funding intended for the building of two thousand affordable homes in Cambridgeshire.
“No wonder that the government blocked £45 million and potentially prevented one thousand new affordable homes because – as they wrote to Mr Palmer – the value for money of the programme he is running has failed the test of good use of public money”.
Dr Johnson has also criticised loans of £50m to “two elite lenders East Cambridgeshire District Council and Laragh for so-called affordable homes at an approximate loan of £1 million for each of the 55 homes built”.
It goes without saying that Dr Johnson will no longer require the services of Charles Roberts, who succeeded James Palmer as leader of East Cambs Council.
Mr Roberts later quit as leader before joining the combined authority as a £48,000 a year, part time housing adviser of the Mayor. And responsible for the £100k homes initiative.
James Palmer had previously employed another former Ely councillor, Tom Hunt, as his chief of staff. Mr Hunt later became Tory MP for Ipswich.
However another Tory councillor Ed Colman, from Norfolk, was later hired - but by the combined authority itself - as a business and engagement. officer..
"This is not a political position, he was not recruited by or reporting to any of the mayoral team nor were they involved or aware of his recruitment at any stage," a combined authority spokesperson explained.
Dr Johnson is also expected to call an immediate halt to the £4billion CAM Metro project.
He described it as a “white elephant" and “a fool’s folly”.
He said: “Better transport and more social and affordable homes. These will be my priorities — not trying to deliver a hugely expensive legacy burden.
“We need to be concentrating on better, more connected public transport now — not in 10 to 15 years’ time.
“We need to ensure that those in the north, Peterborough, March and Wisbech are better served.”
He added: “I don’t believe this project will deliver for the Combined authority as a whole.”
Dr Nik Johnson says he has had several meetings with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham “who is leading the way on bus franchising and innovative bus transport”.
He promised: “As mayor I will provide a bus service that is reliable, affordable, sustainable, accessible and accountable.”
Dr Johnson said he was also concerned about the cost since “the CAM is three times more expensive per kilometre than the Edinburgh system”.
As Mayor he will also decide where he wants to work from – his predecessor favoured Ely.
Outgoing Mayor, James Palmer was magnanimous in defeat, congratulating new Mayor Johnson and wishing all the very best luck.
He also said he was saddened that some of the projects he had worked so hard for in the past four years would not now be completed under his tenure.