No surprises in Preston as the city votes with a clear margin of victory to keep Labour MP Sir Mark Hendrick
There were no surprises in Preston as the city’s Labour MP strolled back into office with a very comfortable 12,146 majority.
But even though Labour party members were confident Sir Mark Hendrick would keep his seat, their mood was sombre as they watched the national picture unfold.
Reflecting on the night, which brought home 20,870 votes for Sir Mark, he said: “I think it’s a fantastic achievement that the people of Preston have had the faith and confidence in me for the seventh time.”
But he went on to say that he was disappointed with what was going on for the party nationally.
“We will have to mull over the result,” he said. “I think we need to start thinking about what sort of policy platform we need and whether or not we need change at the top of the party - where we want to pitch ourselves for the future so that when the next election comes we will win it.”
The win for Sir Mark means he will be going into his 20th year as a Member of Parliament for Preston, having been voted in for the first time at the turn of the century.
Meanwhile the Conservative’s Michele Scott won 8,724 votes, Robert Sherratt of the Brexit Party polled 1,799 leaving the Liberal Democrat’s Neil Darby coming fourth with 1,737 votes. Green Party candidate Michael Welton polled 660.
Turnout in the city was lower than the last General Election at 56.8 per cent. By contrast when the country went to the people in 2017 the turnout in Preston was 61.7 per cent.
As the count got underway in Preston on Thursday night the feeling among the Labour group was grave following the prediction of a Conservative landslide majority in the exit poll.
Speaking before results came in Sir Mark said he was melancholic following the prediction.
“I think we have probably done quite well in Preston but I’m a bit concerned about what’s happening elsewhere,” he said. “I’m hoping that the result will be different than the exit poll.”
His margin of victory this time round is less than two years ago when he secured his party’s highest ever share of the vote in the city in the 2017 election at 68 per cent.
But Sir Mark said the sense in the country had changed.
Referring to his success in the 2017 General Election he added: “I’m hoping I will do at least as well,” he said. “I’m doubtful that the result will be that good.
“There was a different mood in the country. While I’m still optimistic that Labour will win here I don’t expect to get as big a majority as I did last time.”
Conservative candidate Michele Scott left before the Post could ask her to comment on the city’s results but earlier in the evening had welcomed the exit poll as the bringer of good news for her party.
She said: "We need to get the country moving forward again with a Conservative majority.
“That's the whole reason the General Election was called, with Brexit being the main issue.
"The vote that came of the 2016 Referendum has not been upheld and that's why I stood.”
Robert Sherratt who stood for the Brexit Party, which in Preston saw in increase in votes from Ukip’s tally in 2017, said: “I think we look at any gain as a result. I don’t think it’s going to overturn the kind of majority that Sir Mark Hendrick has got but then again we have to look at that.”
Neil Darby, who represented the Liberal Democrats, told the Post he was pleased with the increase to five per cent of the party’s share of the vote.
“I think it’s probably the best we could have hoped for,” he said. “Clearly some of the messages that we have been talking about - climate change, the NHS - the messages worked. I’m pleased with the result.”
Green party candidate Michael Welton told the Post that he felt encouraged about the impact that the Green party could have in local elections in Preston but said that putting himself forward as a candidate for the General Election was about testing the waters in the city.
He said: “I’ve been to hustings during the campaign and the environment was often at the top of the agenda.
“We have seen all the major parties have something to say on the environment. To a certain extent this has been a climate election.
“In the wider society there’s such a fantastic Green movement. There’s a growing Green movement in local councils.
“Last year we more than doubled our number of councillors and we will be targeting wards across the country.
“We are a new party in Preston,” he added. “The party, locally, has only been in existence for a year.
“We are very much planning for the local elections in May.”
But from his experience on the campaign trail Michael said he felt inspired to keep moving with the momentum.
“We can go out there and make a difference,” he said. “With our strategy of making a difference in local elections we are starting to campaign for a way to reinforce our position in the country.”
He also called for the UK voting system to be reformed with a push for Proportional Representation.