David Borrow bowed out as the Tories reclaimed South Ribble after 13 years.
The Labour candidate suffered a heavy defeat to Conservative Lorraine Fullbrook – five years after the two had gone head to head for the same seat in the 2005 General Election.
Mrs Fullbrook rode to victory with a 5,554 majority, wiping our Mr Borrow’s 2,184 lead from 2005 and turning one of the Tories’ top target seats blue for the first time since 1997. She described her win as a “brilliant victory” for the Conservative party, to huge cheers from her supporters at Leyland’s Civic Centre.
Mrs Fullbrook said: “It is the greatest honour to be elected to serve the people of South Ribble. I look forward to serving you to the best of my ability and I will not let you down.”
Labour stalwarts reckoned the boundary rejig worked against them in South Ribble.
The recent review meant two Conservative wards, Eccleston and Mawdsley, were gained from the Chorley seat and Labour ward, Bamber Bridge West, was lost to Ribble Valley.
A downcast Mr Borrow admitted defeat was on the cards a short time into the vote counting, while Mrs Fullbrook anxiously watched and paced round the room as the votes stacked up on the counting tables.
Turnout was up by 5% from the last election, with 68% of the 75,822-strong electorate turning up and reports of long queues at some polling stations in Leyland. Mrs Fullbrook polled 23,396 votes to Mr Borrow’s 17,842.
The Liberal Democrat Peter Fisher took 7,271 votes, with UKIP’s David Duxbury on 1,895 and the BNP’s Rosalind Gauci on 1,054.
Labour had held the South Ribble seat since Mr Borrow stormed to victory, as part of Tony Blair’s landslide sweep to power.
He ousted Conservative MP Robert Atkins in a surprise 5,000-vote victory, overturning the former minister’s 5,000-vote victory.
The 2010 loss completed a difficult day for Mr Borrow, whose father died just hours before he was due to hit the campaign trail on poll day.
Mr Borrow said: “We anticipated this (loss) for some considerable time.”
Mr Borrow added the television leader debates had changed the nature of politics and meant people voted for charismatic party leaders, rather than local candidates.
He said: “One effect of ‘X Factor’ politics is that it is focused on the leader and the leaders’ television image whereas, in the past, it has been both the leader and the team.”
The former Preston Council leader says he may return to local government politics outside of the South Ribble area.