Hastings and Rye General Election: opposition candidates react to Conservative victory
The opposition parties in Hastings and Rye have reacted to Sally-Ann Hart's victory in the General Election.
The Conservative won the December 12 vote by a majority of 4,043 from Labour’s Peter Chowney as she secured 26,896 votes, increasing Amber Rudd’s 2017 majority by 3,697 votes.
Labour's vote share fell by almost 3,000 from 2017 when Peter Chowney secured 25,322 votes, but this year's 22,853 votes represented the party's second best showing in Hastings and Rye.
After the result, Mr Chowney said: "At no time during the period when Hastings and Rye had a Labour MP did we poll that many votes, and when Amber Rudd first won the seat back from Labour, she polled 2,000 fewer votes."
Reflecting on Labour's campaign, Mr Chowney said it was 'inspiring' to see so many young people involved, including 500 people helping canvass on the final day.
He added: "During the course of the six-week campaign, the numbers involved here in Hastings and Rye ran into the thousands. Your enthusiasm, commitment, and hard work was very moving, and something I’ll never forget. It was especially good to see so many young people getting involved in politics again, in the Labour Party."
Mr Chowney said the party's defeat was partly to do with Brexit, but also the 'perceptions' of Jeremy Corbyn in the right-wing media.
Paying tribute to the Labour leader, who has confirmed he will not lead the party into another election, Mr Chowney added: "He will be remembered for his democratisation of the Labour Party, the way he transformed it from a moribund organisation with a diminishing membership of ageing individuals (such as me!) to a dynamic, member-led, radical young movement, the largest political organisation in Europe."
The Liberal Democrats, through Nick Perry, increased their share by more than 2,000 votes after securing 3,960 votes and a 7.3 per cent share. In 2017, Mr Perry managed just 1,885 votes (3.4 per cent of the vote).
Mr Perry, who was standing in his fourth election said: "I am so proud of my fantastic team which was superbly directed by my agent Paul Hunt.
"We have doubled our vote in the face of an almighty squeeze. Perhaps it is now time for the Labour Party to agree with us that electoral reform is an urgent necessity for our country, and that a Labour-led Remain Alliance could have delivered a different General Election result.
"I agree with Sally-Ann Hart that the people of Hastings and Rye have placed a considerable amount of trust in her, given a very shaky start. I can only hope that she doesn't disappoint them."
This year was the third time Mr Perry came third in the Hastings and Rye constituency and the second time - along with 2010 - he secured more than five per cent of the vote in order to retain his deposit.
Independent candidate Paul Crosland, who secured 565 votes, added: “I got exactly 200 more votes than the 365 target I set and 143 more than the Independent got in the last General Election. Seems like a good result.
"One of these friends on Facebook blew my trumpet for me thus: 'A brilliant result and one that makes Paul Edward Crosland the new number one candidate described as an Independent as far as votes polled at ANY General Election in the Hastings and Rye constituency. Considering the fact that this election was also perhaps the most important of all - as far as the future existence/direction of our country is concerned - I think it inspiring that 565 people 'held their nerve' and put a cross for Crosland'.”
After her victory, Conservative Sally-Ann Hart said: "I think we'll get on with delivering Brexit and then we can move on and focus on the other issues that are equally as important to people in Hastings and Rye - transport infrastructure, education, healthcare, communities, crime, the police, focussing on children, young people and families.
"I will be looking at how we can improve the education and the breadth of education. I want to get my sleeves rolled up, get stuck in, find out much more about the issues that really affect people and be very hands on and work with local communities to look at how we can achieve things together, working together as a partnership.
"To the people who voted for me, thank you very, very much and for those who didn't vote for me, I will be representing all of you regardless of how you voted."
Mrs Hart's victory came at the end of a week she herself described as 'pretty grim'.
Last Thursday she was booed at a hustings event as she defended herself for sharing an article which argued for paying some with learning difficulties less because they 'don't understand money'. On Tuesday, the Conservative party confirmed it was investigating Mrs Hart over allegations of Islamophobia after she shared an article entitled 'Women's March Towards Islam', written by an activist who claims to write about Islamic propaganda.
Mrs Hart said she could not answer questions surrounding the investigation as she was 'not aware of the procedure'.
She said she had not thought about how much her majority might be but said she got a 'positive feeling from the doorsteps' and felt she and her team engaged well with voters.
The turnout for the election was 68 per cent, down on 2017's 71.6 per cent.