NEWLY-RETURNED North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson has refused to speculate on the future of Conservative Party leader Theresa May after he was elected for the sixth time.
Mr Paterson increased his share of the vote to 60.5 per cent and received more than 30,000 votes, but was a rare success for the Tories after their slender majority was wiped out.
Mrs May’s future is in doubt after her decision to call a snap election backfired with a hung parliament declared around 6.15am.
But Mr Paterson, who backed Andrea Leadsom in the 2016 leadership battle, believes it is too early to speculate about her future and any possible leadership bids.
“I think it’s very tight,” he said.
“On the exit poll, it said that 76 seats were too close to call and there’s been funny results, such as us winning Dagenham and Mansfield, which was unexpected.
“The final result would decide on what would happen. There might well be other people who will show an interest if there is a vacancy made available.
“But this is all speculation – we’ve all had a very long day and a very long night.”
Mr Paterson received 33,642 votes, more than 16,000 more than his nearest rival Graeme Currie of the Labour Party, bringing his overall share of the vote to 60.5 per cent.
He was pleased to see Conservative gains in Scotland, despite losses in England, but feels he was elected on the strength of his commitment to Brexit.
He added: “I’m never complacent. I got around my constituency as you could see from my social media and as I have done in all previous elections.
“I made it clear to people about Brexit, which is why we got 60.5 per cent, that we needed a mandate for Brexit. We had 17.4 million vote to leave last year and we triggered Article 50.
“What I saw from campaigning was a lot of people who voted remain also want to see Brexit done and out of the way. The common phrase was ‘just get on with it and get it finished’.
“My message that I wanted a strong mandate perhaps rung with voters in North Shropshire. We haven’t started negotiations yet – Mrs May has sent in the letter.
“But people are talking hard Brexit or soft Brexit; I think it’s quite simple. We were very clear on the Leave side that we wanted to take back control and have our say on laws, money and borders.
“If they (MPs) make bad decisions, then the rascals can be thrown out, which is what I regard as true Brexit.
“Anything less is not Brexit. It’s been an interesting night and I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Meanwhile, Mr Currie was delighted with improving his polling with nearly 7,000 more than in 2015, ending with 17,287 votes.
He praised the impact of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign and believes Labour’s presence in North Shropshire will increased.
He said: “We have to make sure we save and defend our NHS.
“I want to thank the Labour voters who have come out of nowhere and helped us on the streets.
“This has been an amazing campaign and its outcome has been totally different to what we expected. As Mr Corbyn said, this is a new type of politics.
“To get 17,000 votes in North Shropshire is a real sea change. There’s an atmosphere of hope and this was an election about a different type of society.
“Now, we’re going to go forward because I believe what we can do now in North Shropshire is to campaign for our NHS, public services and education. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Lib Dem candidate Tom Thornhill came third with 2,948 and Oswestry-based Green Party man Duncan Kerr polled 1,722 votes.