East Worthing and Shoreham has welcomed back a familiar face after Tim Loughton was re-elected as the constituency’s Member of Parliament.
The long-standing Conservative MP has held the seat since 1997 and took a commanding majority of almost 7,500 votes in the General Election, securing 27,107 in total.
With exit polls predicting a Conservative landslide, a sense of inevitability filled Worthing Assembly Hall last night (December 12) as the votes were tallied for two typically safe Tory Worthing seats.
Mr Loughton said he was taking ‘nothing for granted’ prior to the declaration after what he described as a two horse race between Labour and the Conservatives.
Labour candidate Lavinia O’Connor remained bullish in the build-up and refused to concede defeat, but lashed out at the media for dealing in ‘soundbites’ that she felt placed unfair scrutiny on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Interestingly, MP for Worthing West, Sir Peter Bottomley, shared the opposite opinion – that it was the Tories that had taken excessive flack from the media.
Mrs O’Connor came home in second place with 19,633 votes, increasing Mr Loughton’s majority by around 3,000 from the 2017 General Election.
In his victory speech, Mr Loughton thanked the other candidates for a ‘respectful campaign’, but hit back at comments made by Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery at a rally in September, where he vowed to ‘kick Tim Loughton out like a dog in the night’.
“We don’t kick dogs out in the night in this constituency,” said Mr Loughton. “At last we can get on with Brexit and breaking the gridlock that has strangled Parliament for the last three years.”
He also used the opportunity to hit out at the Labour leadership. The Conservatives needed a ‘strong opposition’, he said, and urged party leader Jeremy Corbyn to stand down.
Lavinia O’Connor praised her team for running a positive campaign with a positive message. She said the Labour Party would be watching the Tory Government and did not want to see a repeat of issues she had raised during the campaign, namely ‘one in four children being hungry’, families forced to use foodbanks, nurses and doctors being underpaid and schools underfunded.
The Liberal Democrats’ young candidate, 18-year-old Ashley Ridley, secured third place for his party with 4,127 votes – an increase of more than 1,700 from 2017.
He described his first General Election as a ‘surreal experience’, but said he hoped his campaign could encourage more young people to get into politics. Green Party candidate Leslie Groves Williams received 2,006 votes and Independent Sophie Cook, who stood as the Labour candidate in 2017, gained 255.
Overall turnout this time around stood at a similar figure to the election two years ago – 70.9 per cent.
Nationally, the Conservative Party secured a significant majority in Parliament in a disappointing campaign for Labour and the Liberal Democrats.