Sleaford and North Hykeham’s new Conservative MP has issued a statement on her by-election success after being ushered away from the awaiting media following this morning’s result (Friday).
Dr Caroline Johnson, 38, has been elected as Conservative Member of Parliament for Sleaford and North Hykeham with the best result for a by-election under a Tory government since 1982.
She achieved 54 per cent of the votes cast (17,570 voted for her), announced around 3.30am this morning at North Hykeham’s One NK leisure centre where the count was being held.
The seat had been vacated by Tory MP Stephen Phillips who resigned last month signing policy differences with the Government over Brexit.
After being whisked away by Tory aides without giving any press interviews, Dr Johnson told The Standard in a statement issued later this morning: “It is an enormous honour to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Sleaford and North Hykeham - the community where I live with my family and call home.
“I am grateful that people across this constituency have put their faith in me and I will not let them down. I campaigned on a five-point plan to take action on the issues that matter locally, and now I will work to deliver that plan.
“In doing so, I look forward to strengthening the Government’s majority - helping to ensure that we deliver what the people of the UK voted for in the referendum, make a success of Brexit, and build a country that works for everyone.”
In her acceptance speech she also thanked her campaign team and volunteers for their hard work in electing her, as well as her family.
The turnout was low at 37.08 per cent.
Stephen Phillips had won the last general election in 2015 with a majority of 24,115 (38.9 per cent).
UKIP’s Victoria Ayling trailed behind distantly with 4,426 votes (13 per cent of the vote) securing her party’s standing in the county as the main opposition. Labour had come second in 2015 but were relegated with candidate Jim Clarke to a lowly fourth - but by less than 300 votes - to the Liberal Democrat Ross Pepper.
Ms Ayling told The Standard on know the result: “This is a very good result. We have beaten Labour and the Liberal Democrats and I think the Brexit vote in Parliament last night might have helped the Tories for any waverers and UKIP can be the party of opposition to hold the Government to account.
“The Labour party looks like it has collapsed in Scotalnd and this could be the beginning of the end in England. If you add the percentage of votes together of us and the Conservatives there has been an increase in the Brexit vote in this constituency.”
She accepted a 24,000 vote majority had been a mountain to climb and the vote had been divided among many candidates. She said it was a great new start for UKIP under their newly elected leader Paul Nuttall, who attended the count too, and would pave the way for to coming closer to winning parliamentary seats.
Ms Ayling, a Lincolnshire county councillor, said: “We have local elections next year and this is a wonderful launch to show the people of Lincolnshire that we are viable, stronger and united to win council seats in May.
UKIP party leader Paul Nuttall said he was “over the moon” at the result, saying: “We started this election in difficult circumstances with a leadership election to focus on.
“If someone had said to me we would be in second place then I would have bitten their hand off. It is a really good way to get my leadership off the ground.
“Victoria has done a fantastic job. I’m proud of her.”
A dejected Jim Clarke put a brave face on his party’s poor showing. He had been supported on the night by Labour MP Vernon Coaker.
Mr Clarke said afterwards: “It was going to be a challenge for us in a very safe Tory seat. Perhaps we didn’t get our message out enough. The election was Brexit dominated and the rest of our message may have got buried.
“UKIP had their leader down here and came second but not much of a share of the vote.” He felt that was why the Liberal Democrats had picked up votes by offering an alternative message.
“We have probably been squeezed but we have not got our message out to enough people.”
Ross Pepper the Liberal Democrat candidate said it was a “positive result”.
He said it was definitely an improvement on their 2015 showing: “We have been getting lots of positive feedback from people,” he said.
“We have tried to give people a voice where they feel they have not got one and we will continue to fight for those people and services.”
The rest of the results were:
Marianne Overton (Lincs Independents) 2892 (9%)
Sarah Stock (Ind) 462 (1%)
The Iconic Arty Pole (Official Monster Raving Loony Party) 200 (1%)
Paul Coyne (Non aligned) 186 (1%)
Mark Suffield (Ind) 74 (0%)