General Election 2010

Speaker John Bercow fends off Nigel Farage

 

House of Commons speaker John Bercow has held his seat in Buckingham, beating off a challenge by Ukip's Nigel Farage.

Mr Farage, who was injured in a light plane crash in Northamptonshire yesterday, was pushed into third place in the contest.

He is still being treated in hospital and was unable to attend the count at Aylesbury Civic Centre in Buckinghamshire.

Mr Bercow, accompanied by wife Sally for the announcement, has been the MP for the area since 1997.

He polled 22,860 votes, a majority of more than 12,000.

Independent candidate John Stevens, standing under the title of Buckingham Campaign for Democracy, was second with 10,331 votes.

Mr Farage was third with 8,401 votes.

Mr Farage, who is expected to be released from hospital early next week, was represented by his election agent Dave Fowler.

Taking to the stage after the result, Mr Fowler said Mr Farage was "chomping at the bit" and asking for a cigarette from his bed at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

He said on Mr Farage's behalf: "I assure Ukip voters and supporters that although we have lost this battle, the war carries on."

The MEP had given up his presidency of the party to stand against Mr Bercow.

His spokesman Duncan Barkes said he had been watching events unfold on television.

He also revealed his first words upon escaping the plane wreckage were: "Bloody hell, what happened?".

Although in shock in the immediate aftermath of the crash, in which he suffered two broken ribs, a chipped spine and damaged sternum, he had recovered sufficiently to ask for a gin and tonic by 6pm.

The plane, towing an election banner, had been in the air for nearly 15 minutes and was preparing to land when it nose-dived and hit the ground.

It is thought the banner may have become tangled up in the plane's tail fin, causing the crash. Northamptonshire Police are investigating.

Mr Bercow expressed his sympathy as to Mr Farage's plight as he entered the civic centre ahead of the announcement.

He said he was "concerned" to learn of the terrible accident, at Hinton-in-the-Hedges airfield near Brackley, and added: "I wish him and his pilot full and speedy recoveries."

A total of 11 candidates contested the constituency, but none, as is tradition, from the main parties because of Mr Bercow's position as speaker.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Bercow said he recognised many of his constituents were angered by being unable to vote for their parties. He noted the high number of spoiled ballot papers, with 1,067 out of 49,402 rejected.

He said: "None of us fighting the campaign can be unaware or insensitive to the very, very large numbers of people across the constituency who have expressed surprise, confusion or plain discontent at being unable to vote for candidates of the major parties.

"It's not for me today to say what needs to be done about that. But what I said to people on the doorsteps I repeat now. I will, on behalf of all of those people and your candidates, report to the House of Commons the views that have been expressed and invite the House to consider what approach should be considered in the future."

Speaking to reporters after leaving the stage, he said it was too early to speculate on how his role as Speaker could be affected by there being a hung parliament.

He said: "I simply don't want to get into any of that. My responsibility is to effectively represent the people of Buckingham."

His wife had been one of the first he thanked upon being re-elected, and she stood applauding in front of the stage as she listened to him speak.

He said: "She is fairly widely known as not exactly being an identikit political wife but I thank her warmly for that moral support and indeed for her vote yesterday."

The Speaker entered the election with a majority of 18,000, having last won the seat in 2005 as a Conservative candidate.

Mr Bercow would not be drawn on the wider implications of presiding over debates in a hung parliament, which could see him exercising his casting vote more often.

He said: "The role of the Speaker is to chair the House of Commons. The question of wider constitutional issues is not a matter for me."

He thanked supporters for returning him with a "handsome majority" and said it had, on the whole, been "a good campaign". He singled out Mr Farage for conducting an "upright" fight against him.

Mr Bercow, and the 10 other candidates, seemed particularly amused by the speech from the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate Colin Dale-Mills, who claimed it was the best ever result for his party.

Mr Dale-Mills, 71, said he was overjoyed with polling 856 votes, adding to laughter from the Speaker: "I don't know about you lot, but I've had a whale of a time."

After leaving the civic centre, Mr Bercow went to a nearby bar where he was congratulated by his supporters.

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