'Essex Man' returns to the Tory fold

The Conservatives scored a crucial victory over Labour as "Basildon man" flocked back into the Tory fold, electing Stephen Metcalfe.

He took the new seat of South Basildon and East Thurrock with 19,624 votes. His opponent, the 13-year incumbent Labour MP Angela Smith, was pushed into second place with 13,852 votes, while the Liberal Democrats' Geoff Williams came third on 5,977. Mr Metcalfe now enjoys a 12.9 per cent majority (5,772 votes) after a 7.5 per cent swing.

The results were announced later than expected at the Towngate Theatre, but turnout was good at 62.6 per cent, up by 3 points on the 2005 election.

"I'm delighted, it's a fantastic result from my point of view," Mr Metcalfe told The Independent. "The people of Basildon and East Thurrock have put huge trust in me. We've run a positive campaign and got nearly 50 per cent of the vote. Basildon Man and Basildon Woman are an excellent cross-section of the country and that's why people look at us to see what will happen."

Basildon has been a bellwether seat since the so-called "Essex man" or "white van man" plumped for Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and it has supported the winning party every time since. John Major got a major boost in 1992 when it reported a Conservative hold, and Basildon voters predicted Tony Blair's 1997 landslide.

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