ELECTION 2017 NORTHAMPTON SOUTH: Emotions high as Labour run Tories close
Despite a close call, the Conservatives have held onto the Northampton South seat on a night anything could have happened.
Andrew Lewer, the man who took over from David Mackintosh at the last minute to run a snap campaign, claimed the seat by a greatly reduced margin.
But earlier in the night there were rumours the count in the south of the town was too close to call and with shocks up and down the country - not least former deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg losing his Sheffield Hallam seat shortly before 3am - the atmosphere was tense.
Gathered round the television at Lings Forum, Conservative Party faithful had gasped audibly as the 10pm exit polls were announced.
It really could have gone either way - and as the night drew on, one aide told the Chron that counting in the Northampton South seat was ‘neck and neck’.
Labour candidate Kevin McKeever, so close to claiming a Tory scalp once again, and armed with promises to launch a full inquiry into the Sixfields loan saga, entered the building with a chaperone before avoiding lurking journalists.
At times the oppressive heat inside Lings Forum, filled with police officers as part of enhanced security around the UK, only added to the close atmosphere inside the counting hall.
But just after 4am the results came and Mr McKeever’s second attempt at the Northampton seat was thwarted.
Giving his victory speech Mr Lewer, a man who had barely visited Northampton until a few weeks ago, said: “The result vindicates my excellent campaign team.
“The vindication comes from the fact we didn’t take this for granted.
“One of my team members thinks I will be the first as a council leader an MEP and an MP.”
Mr McKeever, visibly emotional after the result, said the snap election had only served to throw the country ‘into chaos’, adding that Theresa May was a ‘damaged Prime Minister’.
“The Labour wave that is sweeping the country has not come to Northampton - but I am proud that I have reduced the majority from 6,000 to 1,000 today,” he added.
But with the country heading towards a hung Parliament, there is a real possibility voters will be asked to head to the polls again in a few months time.
As it stands the Conservatives could fall just shy of a winning majority, meaning coalition deals will have to be struck, a minority Government formed, or a second election will have to be held in the near future.
Earlier in the night Tim Farron had tweeted that he would not take his party into coalition again.
Northampton South Lib Dem candidate Jill Hope, said the party leader had no choice after the previous stint in government - and the hammering the Lib Dems received over tuition fees.
“We implemented 75 per cent of our manifesto in Coalition but we got slaughtered for it,” she said.
“No, we could not go out on the stump and say we would go out into coalition.
“He (Tim Farron) has said that throughout the campaign.
“People were upset by the last coalition - people would say to us you will just get into bed with X or Y.”
As predicted, the three smaller parties were marginalised in what became a two-horse race in Northampton South, polling just over 3,700 votes between them.
But with so much to be decided over the coming weeks - the candidates could find themselves back at Lings Forum sooner than they thought.