Crushing victory for Tories across Sussex in national and local elections
The Conservatives swept to a crushing victory in Sussex holding almost all of their general election seats and making huge gains on district and borough councils.
Friday morning’s results rounded off a disastrous campaign for both Labour, who were almost wiped out by the SNP in Scotland, and the Lib Dems, who retained just eight Westminster seats.
In Sussex, the Tories took both Eastbourne and Lewes from their former coalition partners, while also holding the Labour target seats of Crawley, Hastings and Rye, and Brighton Kemptown (including Peacehaven) on their way to securing a majority in the House of Commons.
Although UKIP candidates improved their party’s vote share and finished second in seven Sussex constituencies, they failed to run the Tories close in any of their safe seats.
These results were followed by more good news for the Tories at district and borough council counts across Sussex on Friday and Saturday.
In Mid Sussex they turned the entire district council blue taking all 54 seats, the Tories took overall control of Lewes District Council, in Wealden the Lib Dems lost their three remaining seats, while Tories were elected in all 11 seats being contested at Worthing Borough Council.
It was a similar story for Horsham, Rother, and Chichester district councils where the Conservatives took several seats from the Lib Dems.
The Labour Party managed to hold on to its majority at Crawley Borough Council by the slimmest of margins from the Tories.
For the Lib Dems, the only bright spots were Eastbourne where they kept control of the borough council and Littlehampton Town Council, where they picked up seven seats.
Norman Baker, who had been Lib Dem MP for Lewes since 1997, congratulated his Conservative successor Maria Caulfield, but said it had been a ‘terrible night for the Liberal Democrats nationally’, adding they had paid the price for the ‘brave’ decision of entering into a coalition.
He joined a long list of Lib Dems to be unseated, including key figures such as Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Ed Davey, and Charles Kennedy.
Ms Caulfield, a nurse working in breast cancer research, overturned a near 8,000 vote majority to win by more than 1,000 votes. She thanked voters for placing their trust in her and said she would work ‘day and night’ to represent them at Westminster.
Previously, Sussex had just two female MPs, Amber Rudd in Hastings and Rye, and Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion. It now has five – all in East Sussex.
Nus Ghani became the new MP for Wealden, succeeding Charles Hendry by holding the seat for the Conservatives, while Caroline Ansell unseated Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd in Eastbourne by just 723 votes.
After her victory Mrs Ansell, a teacher and schools inspector, said: “I’ve hardly dared dream of this moment in all these many days and weeks and months.”
New Conservative MPs were also returned in places where politicians had stepped down prior to the election. Jeremy Quin was elected Horsham’s MP with a staggering 24,658 vote majority.
In Wealden, Ms Ghani was returned comfortably, while Huw Merriman won by more than 20,000 votes in Bexhill and Battle.
Apart from the meteoric rise of the SNP in Scotland and the near wipeout of the Lib Dems, the main theme of the night was the failure of Labour to pick up key target seats from the Tories across England.
Brighton Kemptown, Crawley, and Hastings and Rye were some of the constituencies Labour needed to win if Ed Miliband wanted to get into Downing Street, but in the last two Henry Smith and Mrs Rudd actually increased their majorities.
While UKIP finished second in Bexhill and Battle, Wealden, Worthing West, Bognor and Littlehampton, Chichester, Arundel and South Downs, and Horsham, many incumbent Tory MPs increased their majorities.
East Worthing and Shoreham was one of UKIP’s 12 target seats, but candidate Mike Glennon ended up finishing third, behind the Tories’ Tim Loughton and runner-up, Labour’s Tim Macpherson.
The only blemish for the Tories in Sussex was Hove, which they won in 2010 but lost to Labour this time around.