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Times: Victory for Blair’s aide keeps the flame alive

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article2107633.ece July 20, 2007 Victory for Blair s aide keeps the flame alive Fran Yeoman, Political Reporter
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 23, 2007
      July 20, 2007
      Victory for Blair's aide keeps the flame alive
      Fran Yeoman, Political Reporter

      Gordon Brown was spared embarrassment in Sedgefield last night as he
      secured the first by-election victory for his Government in his
      predecessor's constituency.

      Phil Wilson, Tony Blair's former aide, was elected comfortably as the
      new MP with a majority of almost 7,000.

      The other winners were the Liberal Democrats, who pushed the
      Conservatives into third place with a 8 per cent rise in their vote.
      Overall there was a 11.05 per cent swing from Labour to the Liberal

      David Cameron's claims to have rejuvenated the Conservative Party in
      the North suffered a blow as its candidate, Graham Robb, secured only
      4,082 votes.

      The British National Party, who did not stand in Sedgefield at the
      last general election, came fourth with just under 3,000 votes. Its
      candidate, Andrew Spence, is well known in the region, having played a
      leading part in the mass fuel protests during new Labour's first term.

      Mr Wilson, 48, the son of a local miner, won with a majority
      substantially down from the 18,500 Mr Blair secured in 2005, thanks in
      part to a greatly reduced turnout of about 40 per cent compared with
      62 per cent last time. But he took the seat comfortably ahead of ten
      rival candidates and said he was "honoured and deeply humbled" to
      represent the people with whom he had grown up.

      Last night as he gave his victory speech — which was marred by
      heckling from BNP supporters — Mr Wilson promised to be a "very
      hard-working constituency MP". He said: "I will never be satisfied
      until every family in Sedgefield has the very best." He attributed his
      victory to "the success of new Labour under Tony Blair and our renewal
      with Gordon Brown".

      Sedgefield, in a part of the North-East once dominated by coal mining,
      has long been a safe Labour seat, and some bookmakers had the party at
      1-100 odds-on favourites to retain control. The by-election campaign
      was largely overshadowed by a tighter battle in Ealing Southall, but
      Mr Wilson's team did not take victory for granted. Anger has been
      growing locally for some time over the dilapidated state of Newton
      Aycliffe, at the heart of the constituency, where pledges of a new
      shopping centre have been thwarted by repeated rows with developers.

      In the local council elections in May, six Labour councillors
      including the council leader lost their seats to independents
      campaigning for town centre redevelopment. One of the victorious
      independents, Paul Gittins, a former shopkeeper, stood in yesterday's
      by-election and secured more than 1,000 votes, after Labour had been
      forced to repel charges that Mr Blair had neglected his constituency
      during his ten years in office.

      Sedgefield result

      Phil Wilson (Lab) 12,528 (44.77%)
      Greg Stone (LD) 5,572 (19.91%)
      Graham Robb (C) 4,082 (14.59%)
      Andrew Spence (BNP) 2,494
      Paul Gittins (Ind) 1,885
      Toby Horton (UKIP) 536
      Chris Haine (Green) 348
      Stephen Gash (Eng Dem) 177
      Tim Grainger (Christian Party) 177
      Alan "Howling Laud" Hope (Loony) 147
      Norman Scarth (Anti-Crime) 34

      Labour majority: 6,956
      11.06% swing Lab to LD
      Electorate 67,314
      Turnout 27,980 (41.57%)

      *2005: Blair (Lab) 24,421; Lockwood (C) 5,972; Browne (LD) 4,935; Keys
      (Ind Keys) 4,252; Brown (UKIP) 646; Farrell (NF) 253
      Luckhurst-Matthews (Veritas) 218; Abraham (Ind A) 209; Maroney (Loony)
      157; Cockburn (BMG) 103; Pattinson (Senior) 97 Gilham (UKPP) 82; John
      (Ind HJ) 68 Barker (Ind Barker) 45; Brennan (Ind Bren) 17
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