Conservatives increase majority in North East Cambs with Steve Barclay polling almost 55 per cent of the vote
- Credit: Archant
Clear that he had won early on, Steve Barclay preferred the comfort of his nearby home to arriving at the NE Cambs count too early, leaving his supporters to pace the floor crunching numbers and speculating on his majority.
“We’ll give him the nod when to arrive,” one Tory official told me just before 3.30am as numbers attending had whittled down to 50 or 60.
UKIP had been widely predicted to perform well but their candidate Andrew Charalambous, the party’s housing spokesman, felt NE Cambs “was reflecting what’s happening nationally.” He said the “SNP factor” had worked against his party and for the Tories particularly in the past week.
“You can see from the postal votes how close we were but that all changed. It seems people were scared and couldn’t or wouldn’t take the risk.
“But the good thing is we have increased our share of the vote, and some.”
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Labour’s Ken Rustidge described his campaign as “exhilarating” and promised he’d be back.
“It’s a massive constituency, I believe one of the biggest in the country, and it’s been an enormous challenge getting round it all. I’ve only been at it since last August and trying to get round everywhere as well as holding down a full time job too.”
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Logistically the count was the biggest ever undertaken by Fenland District Council since it was formed in 1974 with parish, town, district –and a county council by election- coinciding with the General Election.
The stress showed on the face of returning officer Paul Medd who briefed the media early on about a printing error that could cause the re-run of a town council ward in March.
Mr Medd said one book of 100 ballot papers – out of a total of 198,000- contained the wrong candidate details but the mistake was not spotted until after 58 voters had passed through the polling station at Westwood primary school. After taking legal advice Mr Medd said the 58 votes “will clearly be rejected” but it will be up to voters if they petition for a re run.
Mr Barclay slipped into the count at the Hudson leisure centre, Wisbech, with his wife Karen shortly after 4am, with the declaration some time away, chatting with party workers with the only issue not victory itself but the size and scale of it.
The result finally arrived around 8am - one of the last 50 constituencies in the country to declare - with victory as predicted going to Mr Barclay who managed to increase his majority by 449 on his 2010 result.
He polled 28,524 with UKIP’s Mr Charalambous taking second place over Labour with 11,650.
Labour’s Mr Rustidge gained 7,476 with Lib Dem Lucy Nethsingha, who didn’t stick around for the result, taking fourth place with 2,314. The Green’s Helen Scott-Daniels brought up the rear polling 1,814 votes.
All were gracious in defeat, congratulating Mr Barclay on his victory and praising the various opponents for the fair campaign and thanking the elections staff for their diligent work in producing the result.
Many of the counting staff completed a 24-hour day having started work earlier on Thursday manning polling station’s across the constituency.
Mr Barclay, who saw his re-election as a mandate to continue the work he started in fighting for better funding and services in this area, was generous in his win saying “it has been a very positive campaign” and adding he enjoyed the various run-ins on the election trail talking about issues and also about rugby.
He concluded: “The result gives me a mandate for me to take to Westminister to continue the fight against illegal gangmasters who prey on the most vulnerable in our community; focus on financial crime and safety issues in the NHS.
Alongside this he pledged to continue to fight for local issues such as improved infra structure which would bring the economic prosperity the area needs.
Mr Charalambous, who looked more and more despondent as the night went on, praised the endurance of the election staff and also paid tribute to his fellow candidates.
And added: “Congratulations to the Conservatives on their result. The next five years are going to be exciting to see how things develop in the Fens.”
Labour’s Mr Rustidge also praised staff and voters pointing out: “My thanks to those who voted for me and to everyone who voted in this election. If people don’t vote then democracy can’t survive.”
And finally Mrs Scott-Daniels, describing her team as the new party on the Fenland block said: “Thanks to everyone in Fenland who voted for a progressive party which is quite new in this area and congratulations to Steve on his magnificent victory.”
RESULT: Steve Barclay (Con): 28,524; Andrew Charalambous (UKIP): 11,650; Ken Rustidge (Lab) 7,476; Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem) 2,314; Helen Scott-Daniels (Green) 1,816. Spoilt votes: 226. Turn-out 62.66% (down on 2010 due to boundary changes). Conservative percentage of vote: 54.8% (up from 51.4% in 2010) majority 16,874 up 449 on 2010.