HARROGATE AND KNARESBOROUGH: Blow to Lib Dems as close-run race ends in loss

THIRTEEN years of Liberal Democrat rule in Harrogate and Knaresborough have ended with the election of Andrew Jones for the Tories.

In a close-fought campaign between Mr Jones and Liberal Democrat Claire Kelley, the Conservatives secured a swing of 9.8 per cent to take the seat by just 1,039 votes.

Mr Jones' victory ends the Lib Dems' control of the seat, held by Phil Willis since 1997. Mr Willis has stepped down.

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It was a seat the Conservatives were very keen to win, with shadow ministers William Hague, Nick Herbert and Chris Grayling all visiting to help Mr Jones' campaign.

Mr Jones told the Yorkshire Post: "I now look forward to representing everybody in Harrogate and Knaresborough and working with all the people who live and work here."

Mr Jones said he would be disassociating himself from the matter of who will be controlling Parliament when he arrives there – saying it was a headache "above my pay grade".

He promised his first job would be to establish a constituency office and begin repaying "the great trust that people have placed in my ability".

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Mr Jones stood for Harrogate and Knaresborough in the 2001 general election and has served on Harrogate Borough Council, representing the High Harrogate ward. He said he felt the key to his victory lay in convincing voters of his own track record of public service.

"I put it out there what I had been doing locally," he said. "It was absolutely about demonstrating that I can get things done for the area."

Mr Jones was supported by a campaign team of several hundred staff.

"We had a big team here and the local work done was absolutely fantastic," he said.

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"Whether it was delivering letters or making phone calls it made a difference. We could not have achieved the result without them."

The loss of the seat will be a disappointment for the Lib Dems, with Ms Kelley's share of the vote down 8.4 per cent on the notional majority Mr Willis received in 2005.

Kevin McNerney, Labour candidate, won 6.4 per cent of the votes with the rest made up of UKIP and BNP voters.