Plaskitt loses Leamington seat in Tory surge

The Conservatives have won the Warwick and Leamington parliamentary constituency for the first time since it went to Labour in 1997. Chris White defeated incumbent James Plaskitt by a margin of 3,513 votes – a massive 8.8 percent swing to the Tories. Turnout in this constituency was also much higher than in previous polls, at 72.5 percent – up five from the previous election.

White praised his campaign team, saying: “The whole energy behind it [the campaign] has been fantastic.”

He also discussed his desire to work more closely with students. “At the end of the day, you are local residents too. You do have a voice. Students bring a massive amount into our community, a massive amount into our economy. Perhaps we ought to be more welcoming, and recognise what you’re doing. We need to make sure there’s a better dialogue across the community.”

However, White was more evasive on the issue of tuition fees. When asked whether he would keep the cap on fees, he said only that “a review is still taking place and we have to wait for that,” referring to the ongoing Browne Review on higher education funding. He did say, however, that “we’ve got to make sure they [fees] don’t spiral out of control. We have to make sure you get value for money.”

White’s main rival was Labour MP James Plaskitt, who had been representing Warwick and Leamington since his party came to power in 1997. Plaskitt accepted his loss graciously, saying that although he was “naturally disappointed,” his party would “prepare to fight again.” “It’s been an enjoyable and rewarding thirteen years,” he added. Plaskitt blamed his loss on “overwhelmingly national issues” rather than local ones.

Plaskitt said the Labour party “needs to take time to take time to reexamine” its policies and “learn lessons” after its defeat on 6th May.

Liberal Democrat Alan Beddow, who came third in the Warwick and Leamington vote, was surprisingly upbeat. “I think we did very well. We’re up four percent on the last result [in 2005]. What we gained is what we set out to do, and we picked up a lot of new members.”

All candidates also paid tribute to the student-run Just Vote campaign, which helped contribute to the overall turnout in Warwick and Leamington. Beddow said the campaign was “fantastic”.

The Conservatives held the Kenilworth and Southam constituency, which covers the section of Warwick campus to the west of Gibbet Hill Road. Incumbent Jeremy Wright won an absolute majority with 53.6 percent, nearly twice the votes of his nearest rival, Liberal Democrat Nigel Rock. The result was largely unchanged from the previous election, with a small swing of 1.2 percent to the Liberal Democrats.

Wright said it was “humbling” to have won by such a large margin. He also said of the Kenilworth and Southam turnout, which, at 75.5 percent, was also remarkably high: “Turnout was good. It shows people haven’t lost all faith in politics.”

Wright was also unwilling to discuss tuition fees. “We’ll wait for the results of the review,” he said. He added that he wanted “to see the logic behind their recommendations before commenting.”


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