Tories triumph in Thirsk and Malton poll

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Indy Politics

Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates both had cause for celebration today after securing first and second places in the delayed General Election poll in Thirsk and Malton.

Tory candidate Anne McIntosh won the seat with 20,167 votes, but Lib Dem Howard Keal beat Labour to second place after receiving 8,886 votes in yesterday's poll.

The election was postponed from May 6 after the death in April of the UK Independence Party candidate John Boakes.

In an apparent show of support for the new coalition Government, voters left Labour candidate Jonathan Roberts in third place with 5,169 votes, a decrease of 6,416 on the notional results for the newly-formed constituency.

The result reflects that of neighbouring constituency Richmond, which also saw the Lib Dems take second place from Labour on May 6.

Toby Horton, who was brought in to run for Ukip after Mr Boakes' death, came fourth out of five candidates with 2,502 votes, and Liberal John Clark received 1,418 votes.

But figures showed just 50% of the electorate turned out to vote yesterday - three weeks after the rest of the UK went to the polls.

The Tory win takes the party's total number of seats in the Commons to 307.

Lib Dems, cheered by the second place over Labour, also scored a small net swing against their Tory coalition partners.

In a possible indicator of right-wing Conservative discontent, Mr Horton polled 6.6%, saving his £500 deposit.

Speaking after her victory, Ms McIntosh, who was shadow minister for environment, food and rural affairs in the last Parliament, said: "I'm delighted with the result. It's very humbling to have received the support of so many people.

"I think we had a very positive campaign and we went out fighting on the issues I firmly and passionately believe in."

She said it was a "very exciting time" to be in politics and described the new coalition Government as "a new age of politics".

Ms McIntosh added that the result reflected how the electorate felt about the new government, saying: "We do feel very neglected in this part of the world after 13 years of a Labour government."

Mr Keal, who promised a "full-on fight" during the campaign despite the coalition, said he was "grateful and humbled" by the support he had received from the voters.

He described the campaign as an "incredible process and incredible journey".

A Liberal Democrat spokesman described the result as "catastrophic" for the Labour Party.

In his speech following the count, Labour candidate Mr Roberts said: "This was an extraordinary election, undertaken in extraordinary circumstances in an extraordinary constituency."

Mr Roberts congratulated Ms McIntosh on her victory and said: "I wish her all the very best and offer my congratulations to all the other candidates. I genuinely enjoyed sparring with you."

Ukip candidate Mr Horton - whose party saw an increase of 980 votes from the notional figures - said the result was a "vindication" and a reflection of the effect of the coalition.

And Liberal candidate Mr Clark also attacked the coalition, saying he believed the alliance would produce "much harder conditions" in the future.

He said he thought it was "a pity" the poll had not been held a few months later, "when we could see what the coalition produces".

The newly-created seat of Thirsk and Malton was widely regarded as safe Tory territory, having been created from two former Conservative held seats - Ryedale and Vale of York.

A previous Thirsk and Malton constituency was a Tory stronghold until 1983 when it was abolished.

But the area saw a Liberal-SDP Alliance overturn a Conservative majority of more than 16,000 in a Ryedale by-election in 1986.

The huge rural constituency, stretching from outside Harrogate in the west to the North Sea, covers part of the North York Moors and then follows the Yorkshire Wolds east to the coastal town of Filey.

Ms McIntosh was the previous MP for Vale of York, securing a majority of 13,712 at the 2005 General Election.

Today's results saw the Tories increase their vote by 0.2%, an increase for the Lib Dems of 5% and a decrease of 11.6% for the Labour party.

* The result: John Clark (Liberal Party) 1,418; Toby Horton (Ukip) 2,502; Howard Keal (Lib Dem) 8,886; Anne McIntosh (C) 20,167; Jonathan Roberts (Lab) 5,169.