TORIES TAKE TOTNES BUT LABOUR DOUBLES ITS TURNOUT

By Steve Peacock in Local People

Tory Sarah Wollaston swept to victory in Totnes as expected while Labour provided the surprises by taking the second place spot in the seat for the first time in 47 years.

While Dr Wollaston upped her share of the vote she watched her majority actually shrink in an election that saw a significant increase in the turnout of voters.

Meanwhile both the Greens and UKIP may have ended up losing their deposits after trailing in with less than 3,500 votes between them.

And while the Liberal Democrats did better than the last election’s dismal showing when they came in last, it was nowhere near good enough to put them back up into contention where they had been for some 40 years before their 2015 disaster.

Labour’s Gerrie Messer claimed that second place spot by polling 13,495 votes reducing Dr Wollaston’s 18,000 plus majority to just under 13,500.

The trades union activist from Kingsbridge managed to double Labour’s share of the vote compared to their third place showing in the 2015 election.

She said after the election result was declared at South Hams Council Totnes Pavilion leisure centre: “I am absolutely delighted that the turnout for the Labour Party this year has been so good.”

She admitted that even she had been caught by surprise by the size of the Labour vote.

“It was absolutely amazing. It is onwards and upwards from here.”

Dt Wollaston said she was clearly delighted by the result which came with a “slightly improved share of the vote”.

She added: “I’d like to say thank you to everyone who supported me and to reassure those that did not that I will listen and hear view across the whole district.

“That is especially important now that we are moving towards Brexit.”

This year’s election saw a 53,353 people out of the 68,915 eligible to vote cast their ballot in the 80 polling stations set up across the constituency and manned by more than 160 polling staff.

That amounts to a 73.07 turnout compared to 2015’s 68.6 turnout – which is why Dr Wollaston was able to increase her vote but still see her majority shrink.

The newly re-elected MP polled 26,972 compared to 24,941 in 2015.

Voting began at 7pm on polling day which saw people queuing up outside some polling stations in Totnes before they had even opened.

A small army of 80 people drafted in to do the counting began verifying the number of votes as the first boxes of ballot slips arrived at the leisure centre within half an hour of polling closing at 10pm.

As the counting continued through the night and morning it soon became clear that Dr Wollaston was the clear winner by what was going to be a large margin.

But it was not until after 3.30am that the result was finally declared when it was revealed just how well Labour had done.

There were cheers around the hall from Labour supporters when Ms Messer’s vote was declared and more cheers when Dr Wollaston was declared the winner.

Liberal Democrat Julian Brazil, fighting the seat for the third time came in third with 6,466 votes.

It was better than 2015’s 4,667 votes when the Liberal Democrats were clearly punished for their time in coalition with the Conservatives, but still less than half the Labour vote.

He said on the night: “Obviously I am a bit disappointed with the vote but we improved our percentage which is positive.

“Overall it is disappointing that the country seems to be heading towards more of a two party state again and that is not good for the country.”

Perhaps facing the biggest disappointment of the night was Green Party’s Jacqi Hodgson who had high hopes for the Totnes and Dartington vote after winning the local county council seat for her party just three weeks ago.

In 2015 the Greens came in fourth place with 4,845 votes. This time around they came in fourth place again but with less than half the votes after polling just 2,097 – which is less than five percent of the total votes polled which puts them at risk of losing their deposit.

Ahead of the election the South Devon Greens had been pressing for a “progressive politics” approach to the Totnes constituency election to try and oust Dr Wollaston.

They suggested that both Labour and Liberal Democrats pull out of the Totnes election to give the Greens a clear run.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats refused to play ball and the resulting tactical voting lost the green votes, said Ms Hodgson.

The Totnes Town and Dartington district councillor who is a former Totnes mayor said: “I know that a lot of Green Party supporters voted Labour,” she said.

“I think that it is really unfortunate that despite the voters clear intention to consolidate votes behind a candidate to oust the Conservatives it didn’t quite make it.”

If The Greens lose their deposit then UKIP has no chance of retaining there’s.

Construction project manager from Newton Abbot Steve Harvey admitted from the go that he was a paper candidate put up to increase UKIPs candidate numbers to ensure national access to TV political broadcasts.

In 2015 UKIP came second in the contest for the Totnes seat with 6,656. This time around the party could only manage a measly 1,240 votes.

Results:

Julian Brazil (Lib Dem) 6,466 votes.

Steven Harvey (UKIP) 1,240 votes.

Jacqi Hodgson (Green Party) 2,097.

Gerrie Messer (Lab) 13,495 votes.

Sarah Wollaston (Con) 26,972.

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