General election 2019: Conservatives hold South Ribble as new MP pledges to fight for better transport
South Ribble has cemented its place as a Tory stronghold at Westminster after the party secured the largest ever share of the vote at a general election in the constituency.
Katherine Fletcher scooped almost 56 percent of all the votes cast and a majority of more than 11,000 – the second-highest lead in the 36-year history of the seat - as she took over from fellow Tory Seema Kennedy, after she stepped down before the election was called.
Labour trailed in a distant second place after South Ribble took a 3.7 per cent swing to the Conservatives.
In her victory speech, Ms. Fletcher paid tribute to her opponents for a “hard-fought but completely fair” campaign – and then pledged to vote to get Brexit done and advocate for a Northern Powerhouse, “because that’s what people voted for”.
Speaking to the local democracy reporting service, she said that she was proud of both the national and local campaigns – and claimed voters in the constituency had looked at what Jeremy Corbyn was offering and concluded that it was “not the kind of Britain that they want”.
“[People] are saying they want better infrastructure – an ability to get to jobs, to make sure that the traffic in Leyland is better and that we get the train services we deserve.
“All of that is wrapped up in people having economic opportunities in choosing to travel to work and also for employers to get people from the broadest [area]. They’ve been saying ‘Up the North’ – and it’s our time to get the investment that will unlock that.”
Ms Fletcher, also pledged to be an MP for everybody in South Ribble, whichever way they voted. “That’s my message – you get in touch if I can help you,” she added.
Meanwhile, Labour’s candidate Kim Snape said that her local campaign “got caught up in the middle of” national issues.
“It was the divisiveness of Brexit and people just believing Boris Johnson. They are just fed up whether they voted remain or leave and they liked that short, snappy message of ‘get it done’.
“We couldn’t have worked a harder campaign locally and I’m grateful to everybody that partook in it over the last two years. We’ve had the best organised campaign on the ground in South Ribble in a long time and it was just the national agenda that overtook things.”
But Ms. Snape, who is also a Lancashire county councillor in Chorley, did not lay the blame for her defeat at the door of Jeremy Corbyn.
“Like previous leaders, some people love them and some people hate them. That’s the same with Boris Johnson, it comes with all political parties,” she said.
The Liberal Democrats were pleased to increase their vote share by more than three per cent. The party’s candidate, Jo Barton, said she would have preferred to have been campaigning for a second EU referendum rather than on a stop Brexit platform.
“But I think one of the parties had to go all in for a stop Brexit message. We chose to do that and in hindsight, it wasn’t the right thing to do.
“However, I think Katherine [Fletcher] is a fantastic person – she doesn’t take herself overly seriously and is up for a laugh and a joke – and I really do think she is going to do a lot of good in South Ribble. I look forward to talking politics with her over a pint occasionally,” Ms. Barton said.
Green Party candidate Andy Fewings was not present at the count. He grew the Green vote by just over one per cent.
Katherine Fletcher (Conservative) – 30,028 votes – 55.8 per cent share (+3.0 per cent compared to 2017)
Kim Snape (Labour) – 18,829 votes – 35.0 per cent share (-4.3 per cent)
Jo Barton (Liberal Democrat) – 3,720 votes – 6.9 per cent (+3.2 per cent)
Andy Fewings (Green Party) – 1,207 votes – 2.2 per cent (+1.3 per cent)
Turnout: 71.7 per cent
53,993 residents turned out from a total of 75,351 eligible to vote in South Ribble. There were 209 rejected or spoiled ballot papers.