General Election 2019: Conservative Anthony Browne wins in South Cambridgeshire

PUBLISHED: 12:13 13 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:13 13 December 2019

Conservative Anthony Browne won in South Cambridgeshire and recaptured the seat for his party after Heidi Allen’s defection. Picture: BEN HATTON

Conservative Anthony Browne won in South Cambridgeshire and recaptured the seat for his party after Heidi Allen’s defection. Picture: BEN HATTON

Archant

Conservative Anthony Browne has won in South Cambridgeshire and recaptured the seat for his party after Heidi Allen left over her opposition to Brexit.

Labour's Dan Greef at South Cambs count at Cambourne Village College. Picture: BEN HATTONLabour's Dan Greef at South Cambs count at Cambourne Village College. Picture: BEN HATTON

Conservative Anthony Browne has won in South Cambridgeshire and recaptured the seat for his party after Heidi Allen left over her opposition to Brexit.

The win is technically a Conservative hold, although Heidi Allen had joined the Liberal Democrats by the time the election was called.

South Cambridgeshire was considered a Tory safe seat until the 2016 EU referendum split the constituency 60:40 in favour of staying in the EU, and the Tories will be relieved to have held on in the face of a pro-Remain tactical vote surge.

Liberal Democrat Ian Sollom at South Cambs count at Cambourne Village College. Picture: BEN HATTONLiberal Democrat Ian Sollom at South Cambs count at Cambourne Village College. Picture: BEN HATTON

The last YouGov model before the vote put the Liberal Democrats slightly ahead caused a shock when it put the Liberal Democrats slightly ahead, but with the Tories within the margin of error of retaining the seat.

The result came down to the wire at Cambourne Village College where the count was held. The result came in at 3:20am, with no party able to claim it with confidence ahead of time.

Anthony Browne won with 31,015 votes - 46.1 per cent, a slight drop from the party's 2017 result of 51.8 per cent.

Liberal Democrat Ian Sollom received 28,111 votes, 41.8 per cent, which is a huge shift for the party which came in third place with 18.6 per cent in 2017.

Labour's Dan Greef received 7,803, 11.6 per cent, which is a considerable drop for the party which came second with 27.2 per cent in 2017.

The turnout was 77.03 per cent, a slight increase on the 2017 turnout of 76.2 per cent. 67,237 votes were cast in total.

Speaking from the stage after being announced the winner, Mr Browne said he will "absolutely repay" the trust of the voters.

He dedicated his victory to a Conservative party activist on his campaign committee who he said "died suddenly a few weeks ago", leaving behind young children.

Addressing the hall: "As I speak it seems almost certain there will be quite a significant Conservative government majority. We have now had one referendum, and two general election campaigns where the British public have voted for Brexit.

"It's time we just get it over and done with and that we move on. We need to stop the fighting and just move on as a country - reunite the country - and move on to all the other issues that we need to focus on that affect our day to day lives. Now is the time to bring the country back together, not to divide them.

"This government must be a one nation government that rules in the interests of everyone in Britain from wherever they hail from, whatever their walks of life. It has been a long evening to end a long and often difficult campaign. And it's humbling to represent in parliament my home constituency, where I grew up, where I was educated, to be the representative of the schools I went to, of my family and many life long friends.

"And I make this promise. That I will do what I have been elected to do, and I will fight with every ounce of my energy to represent in Westminster the interests of this constituency and everyone who lives in it."

He said afterwards: "I'm incredibly excited, I'm incredibly humbled".

He said the result was "tight" and said "we had a lot of headwinds against us in this constituency". "It looks like we've got a pretty good working majority," he said, speaking at around 3.30am. "We can then get Brexit done," he said. He said he would "fight with every ounce of my breath for the interests of the constituents of South Cambridgeshire".

You may also want to watch:

It was a tense finish on the night, with the last YouGov model ahead of the vote putting the Liberal Democrats ever so slightly in front, but with a Conservative victory within the margin of error.

"I can see it's quite a close count," said the returning officer, Liz Watts, at around 1am, only two hours before the result.

Runner up, Liberal Democrat Ian Sollom, thanked the Green Party for standing aside and said "we gave it our best shot and we came very close".

He said the Liberal Democrats "should be proud" of the campaign, and said "but now we have a harder fight than ever for the values that underpin that vision, the values of liberal democracy itself, because make no mistake, those values are under threat.

"When a government seeks to avoid scrutiny, shut down debate, lie without compunction, and turn us against others who aren't like us, it leads to a dark, dark place. So I will keep fighting against that darkness, and we must all keep fighting against that darkness at every level, and in every way we can".

He said afterwards he felt "hugely disappointed obviously but also massively proud of my campaign team and all the volunteers that helped in what has been the biggest Liberal Democrat campaign ever in South Cambridgeshire. We came very very close with a big swing against the Conservatives but just couldn't quite get over the line this time".

He said: "That is the huge positive to take, I think we have turned what has been a safe Conservative seat into a Tory-Lib Dem marginal and that is a good sign for the future.

"Tactical voting played a big part in us getting so close".

The result was bruising for the Labour candidate Dan Greef. Not only did he fail to win on his third attempt in Cambridgeshire, he lost his place as runner-up and saw his vote share collapse.

He said the result was not a "fair reflection" of the efforts of his team.

He said: "This election will be seen by history as a turning point, a time when fear and division split us, and inequality flourished, however it is always darkest before the dawn.

"As long as people are willing to stand together, and to fight for what is right, hope can never die".

"We will fight on," he said.

Asked afterwards how he was feeling he said "not great".

"We wanted to do better than that because we came in second place last time by a large margin. But clearly we need to listen to the electorate and I honestly think this was a Brexit election in many ways, and you can clearly see that the polls are showing that people are going to one way or the other for Remain or Leave, and maybe they didn't think that we had the answer to that.

"But also tactical voting is huge in this constituency, so we know on the door step our policies are really popular, but when you've got Alistair Cambpell against you in The Guardian it's hard locally".

"Many Labour voters felt they had to be tactical in this election," he said.

He insisted only hours before the result was announced that he had not split the pro-Remain vote. Afterwards he continued to argue that following Heidi Allen stepping down he was the only Remain candidate at one point, and had come second last time around.

But he said he had no regrets and said "I was standing for more than just Remain, and actually I had the most credible Remain position anyway because we were the only party that could have delivered a people's vote". He said he was fighting to stop austerity.

Mr Browne, 52, was born in Cambridge and studied mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He has worked as a journalist for the BBC, The Times and The Observer. He has led the Policy Exchange think tank, was responsible for economic development for Boris Johnson for a period while he was mayor of London, and he was the chief executive of the British Bankers Association from 2012 to 2017. He is currently the chair of the government's Regulatory Policy Committee, a role he will likely have to give up now that he has been elected to parliament.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Ely Standard