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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

John Stevenson wins Carlisle for the Conservatives

Conservative John Stevenson has edged out Labour's Michael Boaden to win Carlisle's parliamentary seat.

John Stevenson photo
John Stevenson

He is the city's first elected Tory MP in more than 50 years.

Mr Stevenson scraped home with a majority of just 853 over rival Mr Boaden early today.

The result, announced at 3.40am, brought wild cheers from Conservative supporters at the Sands Centre count.

A euphoric Mr Stevenson, who got 16,589 votes, said: “I take my responsibilities seriously. I intend to work for all sections of our community, not just those who voted for me.

“My biggest thank you must go to the people of Carlisle. It is an honour to be MP. It is an honour to represent you at Westminster. I am truly honoured.”

Mr Boaden, who polled 15,736, was magnanimous in defeat. He said: “Ultimately, it’s been an unsuccessful campaign to me but I do wish John the very best of luck as MP for Carlisle.

“He, like me, shares a vision and passion for this city and I am sure he will do an excellent job.

“We went into this election with the Tories saying we were going to be smashed. We fought a good positive campaign but we came up short. That’s the nature of democracy, you have to accept it.”

Mr Boaden, who was selected as Labour candidate only last November, said it was too early to say if he would stand again.

He added: “I think Carlisle needs a Labour MP. It needs someone to stand up for ordinary people and public services.

“If you look at the record of Labour’s investment in Carlisle, John Stevenson has a very difficult act to follow. We will see. He will be judged on what he achieves and how he goes about his job. We will support him when he does the right things and challenge him when he
does the wrong things.”

Mr Stevenson is the first Conservative MP for Carlisle since Dr Donald Johnson, who lost the seat to Labour in 1964. It has been Labour ever since but recent boundary changes, that brought Wetheral and part of Stanwix urban wards into Carlisle, have made the seat a true marginal.

At the last General Election, in 2005, Labour MP Eric Martlew had a majority of 5,695.

The result could scarcely have been closer. Mr Stevenson took 39.3 per cent of the 42,312 votes cast while Mr Boaden won 37.3 per cent. The turnout of 64.8 per cent was up on 59.9 per cent five years ago and the swing from Labour to Conservative was 7.7 per cent.

Labour supporters, ashen faced, stared blankly as news of the Conservative victory filtered through.

Michael Owen, UKIP candidate, said: “From a standing start last November to 969 votes, in the first effort is looking more than encouraging.”

Neil Hughes, Lib Dem, said it was an ‘encouraging result.’

“It shows that people have taken an interest in this election,” he said. “The fact that Nick Clegg has been allowed to participate in the national leader’s debate has helped. Our local party has recruited new members in this campaign which is very pleasing. I hope they will
stay with us and get involved.”

John Reardon, Green candidate, said: “We are very pleased. The local party was set up only 17 months ago. This election has been about developing our profile in the constituency, getting new members, getting our message out and showing people there is an alternative to the two main parties.”

John Metcalfe, Socialist and Trade Unionist, said: “We set off with the objective of raising the profile of policies ignored by the main three parties. The number of votes we got was always secondary to providing a distinct, radical agenda.”

Peter Howe, Independent, said: “I had thought that with what’s gone on at Westminster in the last couple of years people would have got fed up with the party system and realised the benefits of having an independent MP. That hasn't been the case.”

Paul Stafford, BNP, was disappointed because he did not retain his deposit. “That was our objective,” he said.

There was more good news for the Conservatives north of the Border, where David Mundell increased his majority over Labour in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale to 4,194.

Mr Mundell polled 38 per cent of the vote, with Labour's Claudia Beamish picking up 28.9 per cent and the Lib Dems' Catriona Bhatia on 19.8 per cent. The swing was 2.6 per cent from Labour to the Tories.

Nationally, the first major casualty of the election was First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson. The Conservatives later ousted flamboyant Lib Dem Lembit Opik from Montgomeryshire, one of the party’s safest seats.

Soon after the polls had closed Business Secretary Lord Mandelson admitted the electorate had rejected a “pure Labour government” but insisted they had not swung behind the Tories either. He hinted Labour would cling to power if the Conservatives failed to claim the
minimum 326 seats they needed to claim victory.

Under the rules, Gordon Brown remains Prime Minister today if there is no decisive result but will struggle to stay in situ unless he can secure a deal with the Lib Dems.

If Mr Cameron secures enough seats he has pledged to “get to work on Friday” and will busily start naming his Cabinet, with the rest of the government to be named over the coming days.

In his winning speech Mr Cameron said: “I believe it is already clear that the Labour Government has lost its mandate to govern this country. It looks like the Tory party is on target to win more seats in this election than we have in 80 years.”

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