Monday, 14 June 2021

Howell overwhelmed by record majority

JOHN HOWELL was re-elected as Henley MP with the largest majority ever recorded for the constituency.

JOHN HOWELL was re-elected as Henley MP with the largest majority ever recorded for the constituency.

The Conservative was returned with a majority of more than 25,000 when the votes were counted in the early hours of Thursday morning following the general election where his party was returned to government after winning an overall majority.

“It is absolutely fantastic,” said Mr Howell, adding that he was “overwhelmed” by the confidence shown in him.

He was re-elected with 32,282 votes, almost five times the number for his nearest rival, Labour’s Sam Juthani, and more than 8,000 up on the last election in 2010.

With 58.4 per cent of the vote, this was Mr Howell’s biggest win since he won a by-election in 2008 to replace Boris Johnson when he left to become mayor of London.

He said: “I arrived at the count at 4.15am and I had an idea that I had won because I had been getting messages about how the count was going but I took nothing for granted. I was up on the platform and my agent came up and said, ‘do you realise the size of your majority?’ He showed it to me and I had to turn round to face away from the cameras.”

Mr Howell checked the records and found that no Henley MP had ever recorded a bigger majority.

“I’m really pleased because I think what it shows is the confidence that people in the constituency have in me and I’m determined to repay that,” he said.

“I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a safe seat but I don’t think anybody could have predicted such a massive increase in the majority. I’m going to have that glass of wine that I’ve been promising myself.”

The turnout was 70.3 per cent, three per cent down on the 2010 general election.

Mr Howell said one of his first jobs would be to ensure there was a “good outcome” for Townlands Hospital.

This week, a public consultation began on plans to reduce the number of beds at the hospital after its redevelopment.

Mr Howell said: “I will continue to work very hard so that the consultation takes place and that we get the best outcome for Henley.”

Mr Juthani, who was standing as a candidate for the first time, polled 6,917 votes, which was 1,082 more than received by Richard McKenzie, Labour’s candidate at the last election.

Mr Juthani, an economist, who lives in Caversham, said: “I’m hugely proud of the campaign that we ran and I was pleased it was the first time the Labour Party had come second in the constituency since 1970.”

He said he hadn’t given much thought to his future adding: “I’m just incredibly tired and looking forward to a break. I have hugely enjoyed the experience â?? it was a lot of fun. I learned a huge amount and it was incredibly interesting. It’s the sort of thing you don’t really know what it’s going to be like until you go for it and I loved it.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Sue Cooper, from Ewelme, finished third with 6,205 votes.

She said: “I’m obviously very sad. I think it was generally in line with the national picture.”

Mrs Cooper, who also a candidate at the last election, said she probably wouldn’t stand again. “I don’t know how much energy I’ll have in five years’ time,” she said.

UKIP candidate Chris Jones came fourth with 6,007 votes.

Mark Stevenson, of the Green Party, received the fewest number of votes with 3,815 but this total was 2,487 more than when he stood at the last election.

He said: “I’m really pleased that we nearly trebled the vote. Comfortably saving the deposit was fantastic.

“The most disappointing thing was it did seem that most of the votes that we and Labour and UKIP got, on top of our previous votes, came from the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote.

“I had hoped we would put a bit of dent in the Conservative majority.”

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