Election 2017: Conservative Sir Oliver Heald ‘honoured and privileged’ after comfortable re-election in North East Hertfordshire

Sir Oliver Heald has retained North East Hertfordshire for the Conservatives. Picture: JP Asher

Sir Oliver Heald has retained North East Hertfordshire for the Conservatives. Picture: JP Asher - Credit: Archant

Conservative Sir Oliver Heald has said he feels honoured and privileged following his re-election once more as MP for North East Hertfordshire.

The veteran MP, who has held the constituency since its creation in 1997, retained the seat comfortably with 32,587 votes – 58.6 per cent of the valid ballots – with Labour’s Doug Swanney closest behind on 15,752 (28.3 per cent).

Sir Oliver’s majority is now 16,835 votes, slightly down from 19,080 two years ago – though his percentage of the vote was now larger than the 55.4 per cent he won in 2015.

Labour’s result was a considerable improvement on the last election, when Chris York won just 18.9 per cent of the ballots with 9,869 votes.

After being confirmed as the winner, Sir Oliver – who lives in Royston – said: “I’m delighted to have been re-elected for this great constituency, and I do pledge to work hard on behalf of all the residents of North East Hertfordshire.

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“It’s a privilege to represent this area and I’ll certainly be standing up for it in parliament. I’m very honoured and privileged to be elected again.

“I think we had a very good debate in the hustings in Royston. I think in terms of the overall campaign, the Conservatives were trying to do something and will have to reflect on how well that worked.

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“It was an election about Brexit in many ways, and the country now has the challenge of Brexit and we’ll have to see who is entrusted with it.”

Speaking before the Conservatives set out their intention to work in government alongside Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party earlier this afternoon, Sir Oliver said he opposed the idea of a formal coalition – something he said had been tried before, and lacked public support.

Mr Swanney, who was widely acknowledged to have run an involved and charismatic campaign from his base in Letchworth, told this paper it had been a real honour to take part.

He said: “The highlight of the campaign for me has been the sense of community from the activists I’ve worked with. A lot of people have felt really lost and are looking for some community, some place that can help them.

“Seeing our constituency party work so hard, and the volunteers put in so many hours, has just been fantastic. It’s a real privileged position being a candidate – and it’s been a lot of fun, a lot of laughs.”

Cambridge-based Lib Dem candidate Nicky Shepard won 4,276 votes (7.7 per cent) – and she said she retained a firm goal of becoming an MP one day.

She said: “I love meeting people and it’s just lovely to meet them and find out what they care about and what their hopes and dreams are for their area.

“My goal is to be an MP, that’s why I’m standing – to build towards a seat in Westminster.

“I’d like to thank everyone, it’s been great working here with them. And I think all that’s happened tonight is really a message for young people in this constituency – that if they want to fight for something different, they should get up and do something about it themselves.”

Green candidate Tim Lee, from Letchworth, polled 5.3 per cent with 2,965 votes – and said he had also enjoyed the campaign.

The full result was as follows:

Sir Oliver Heald (Con): 32,587 (58.6 per cent)

Tim Lee (Green): 2,965 (5.3 per cent)

Nicky Shepard (Lib Dem): 4,276 (7.7 per cent)

Doug Swanney (Lab): 15,752 (28.3 per cent)

Turnout: 73.41 per cent

Majority: 16,835 (was 19,080)

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