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Election shock for the Tories

Massive majority for Labour’s Karen Buck as Mark Field’s seat becomes a marginal

11 June, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya, William McLennan

Labour’s Karen Buck secured a victory in Westminster North at the count with Ibrahim Dogus, Labour’s candidate for Cities of London and Westminster, where the Conservative seat is now a marginal

A LABOUR shockwave hit both Westminster constituencies in the early hours of this morning (Friday) as Karen Buck won a massive majority, while Mark Field’s once-secure seat became a Tory marginal.

In Westminster North, Ms Buck defied pollsters and bookmakers, who just six weeks ago were expecting her to lose the seat, to secure victory with a margin of 11,500 votes – up from just 1,977 in 2015. In the south of the borough, Mark Field held the Cities of London and Westminster, but saw his majority decrease from 9,671 in 2015 to just over 3,000.

The result had been considered too close to call by both sides as voters went to the polls yesterday, but Ms Buck’s supporters grew in confidence throughout the day. The eventual outcome was as much of a shock to both Labour and Conservative supporters.

Shortly after she was confirmed to have seen off challenger Lindsey Hall, Ms Buck told the Westminster Extra: “It’s completely phenomenal. At the beginning of the campaign I was certainly not confident of victory.”

She added: “Clearly something important is going on, that is partly to do with the Europe issue and partly to do with people just feeling they wanted something radically different.”

Asked if that meant a Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn, she said: “Our manifesto did really strike a chord with people and I was hearing that on the doorstep very clearly. What was happening to public services, the police and health services, schools – they didn’t want to go down that road.”

She said she would “take nothing for granted”, adding that “anyone who relied on things not changing again would be a fool”.

An estimated 1,000 Labour supporters from Westminster North and beyond flooded the streets yesterday, largely targeting their traditional voter base in housing estates and towards the east of the constituency.

It is the second time Ms Hall has lost out to Ms Buck in two years. She arrived at the count at around 1.30am in what she described as a “gloomy” mood and, referring to number of Labour activists on the street, said the Conservatives could not match their resources, which she referred to as “the bottomless pit of the unions”.

In contrast, Labour supporters said they had “enthused young people”, and Ms Buck said: “The young people have been at the heart of this campaign, both politically and what it seems like in terms of voting. All power to them, may they stay involved in politics.”

Labour supporters said their campaign was helped by Ms Hall’s decision to anchor herself firmly to Theresa May’s leadership. The Tory contender referred to herself as the Prime Minister’s candidate in promotional material and voiced the “strong and stable” versus “coalition of chaos” mantra repeatedly. But as May’s personal brand weakened throughout the short campaign, the bookmakers and pollsters started to change their predictions of a convincing Tory victory.

After the results were announced, Ms Hall said she was “exhausted and disappointed” to have lost by “quite a long margin” and called on Ms Buck to “work for all the people of Westminster North through these very tough times”.

At the count, a stoney-faced Mark Field alongside Labour’s Ibrahim Dogus

Mr Field said it was a “slight disappointment” to have a “sharply reduced majority” but also a “relief” to retain his seat when he considered the loss of Battersea and failure of the Tories to win many target seats. He said it was a “Brexit election here in London”, adding: “This failure in all political parties means the British public continues to be lulled into a false sense of security about the very profound difficulties that lie ahead for this nation.”

Labour candidate in the Cities of London and Westminster, Ibrahim Dogus, said: “Now it’s a marginal seat for us, and until the next election Mark Field will have to work harder for local people, and people will benefit from this.”

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