Election 2017: Bim Afolami becomes new Hitchin and Harpenden MP – but Conservative majority almost halved by Labour

The new Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami, who has retained the seat for the Conservatives. Pictu

The new Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami, who has retained the seat for the Conservatives. Picture: Layth Yousif - Credit: Archant

The Conservative Party has held the seat of Hitchin and Harpenden under Peter Lilley’s successor Bim Afolami – but with a much reduced majority.

Eton-educated Mr Afolami polled 31,189 votes – marginally fewer than Lilley’s total of 31,488 achieved in 2015.

Yet Labour’s John Hayes picked up an astounding 19,158 votes – slashing the Tory majority in this seat from 20,055 to 12,031.

Speaking afterwards, the relieved Conservative candidate talked exclusively to the Comet – thanking his wife and his parents, who were at the count, and praising his rivals for fighting a fair and democratic campaign.

Mr Afolami said: “I’m feeling completely over the moon to be the new MP for Hitchin and Harpenden. It’s such a great feeling.

“I’m completely honoured. I would like to pay tribute to my opponents who fought a fair and democratic fight.

“I will now focus on local issues and focus on the issues that people are looking at locally. But at the same time I want to be a strong voice in Parliament.

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“And I don’t think there will be any distinction between the two.

“The Comet saw how hard work I worked campaigning and I’m not going to lose sight of local issues.

“Peter Lilley has been an excellent MP. But I will do the job in my own way and find an effective way of doing that. I want to be as open as possible with people. I want to spend a lot of time going out and meeting people across our constituency. So those who don’t know me will get to know me.”

Mr Afolami indicated he will try to get to the Hitchin Beer and Cider Festival this weekend in order to meet constituents over a drink after a long campaign.

He said: “I will try and get to the Hitchin beer festival. My wife might kill me as she would like to see me after a long campaign, but I will try and get there.”

Labour’s John Hayes also thanked his wife and supporters to loud cheers. He also praised his party’s campaign across the constituency and the country and said he was “pleased to have reduced the Tory majority in Hitchin and Harpenden”.

How they voted:

Bim Afolami (Con) 31,189

John Hayes (Lab) 19,158

Hugh Annand (Lib Dem) 6,236

Richard Cano (Green) 1,329

Ray Blake (Independent) 629

Sid Cordle (Christian Alliance) 242

Turnout: 77.6 per cent