Labour’s Cat Smith was elected as the new MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood on Friday Week 3. She gained the seat from her Conservative counterpart Eric Ollerenshaw, ousting him in Thursday’s General Election by 1,265 votes.
The result was announced shortly after 8am on Friday following a bundle recount because of the small margin of victory. Smith’s Labour gain over a formerly Conservative constiuency ran counter to the national picture, as the Conservatives won a majority, winning 331 seats to Labour’s 232.
Lancaster and Fleetwood also saw a larger than average turnout of 66.93%. A total of 41,738 votes were cast in the constituency on Thursday.
Smith -a former Lancaster University student and LUSU Women’s officer – won the seat with a grand total of 17,643 votes. The Labour candidate overturned Ollerenshaw’s 333 vote majority from the 2010 General Election, with Ollerenshaw winning 16,378 votes. Behind them UKIP candidate Matthew Atkins won 4,060 votes, Green candidate Chris Coates won 2,093 votes, Liberal Democrat Robin Long won 1,390 and Harold Elletson won 174 votes.
However Labour’s victory was not equalled, as many expected, in Morecambe and Lunesdale where Conservative candidate David Morris secured a second term as MP. He saw off Labour’s Amina Lone in the General election extending his majority of 866 in 2010 to 4,590 votes.
Lancaster and Fleetwood’s outgoing MP Eric Ollerenshaw spoke to the Lancaster Guardian following his defeat, thanking those who supported his campaign. “I want to thank my supporters who have fought a long hard battle. I hope I haven’t let you down.”
UKIP candidate Matt Atkins told the paper: “Fleetwood is usually where we have a bigger vote share. There is a lot more dissatisfaction with working people who work in the traditional industries and no longer have a voice, not just the fishing industry but North West industry generally. People in Fleetwood don’t think the two main parties are offering them anything.”
LUSU introduced their 333 campaign in order to ensure students could be registered to vote, resulting in a good turnout to vote at the Chaplaincy centre and Barker House Farm on Thursday.
Chris Coates, Green candidate, was impressed by the high turnout suggesting the tight race galvanized voters to make a difference and go to the voting booths. Liberal Democrat Robin Long was not present at the announcement as he was at a midwife appointment with his wife who is eight months pregnant. Independent candidate Harold Elletson was also not at the announcement.
In Lent Term SCAN revealed that only 22 students on campus were registered to vote in the General Election. According to figures from Lancaster City Council on April 4, by that date 1144 Lancaster University residents were registered to vote.
This is a very significant increase in the number of registered students, but is still only 28% of those on the electoral roll for the 2013 County Council Elections: 4121. According to Subtext, Lancaster University’s figures were comparably successful as only nineteen students from the University of Cumbria, Lancaster campus, were registered to vote on Wednesday Week 8, Lent Term.
Both parties recognized Lancaster and Fleetwood as an important parliamentary seat; it was number nine on Labour’s list of target seats for the election. Throughout April numerous leading politicians and campaigner – for both parties – have visited the region to drum up support. Most notably Labour Leader Ed Miliband, Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, and Labour campaigner and comedian Eddie Izzard visited the city.