It was predicted to be a key election battles of 2015 – but in the end Mid Dorset and North Poole was comprehensively won by Conservative Michael Tomlinson following a historic night in Poole.
Senior Tories had identified the marginal Mid-Dorset & North Poole constituency as one of 23 seats vital for national success, but the Lib Dems were determined to hold fast.
However, few people predicted the scale of the Liberal Democrat’s national collapse, that was echoed in Mid-Dorset with the party securing 10,530 fewer votes than the Tories.
Lib Dem candidate Vikki Slade, who was hoping to follow on from outgoing Lib Dem MP Annette Brooke, polled 13,109 votes. On a night when it was announced the turnout was 72.64 per cent, Mr Tomlinson received 23,639.
The dramatic result – in what was always billed as a two-horse race – was declared at Poole’s Lighthouse Theatre on Friday morning.
Newly-elected MP Mr Tomlinson said: “It is a brilliant result and it is not really sinking in. I think it it is going to take hours to sink in actually, we’re going to have breakfast first then look back at the numbers.
“The whole team has been fantastic. I am so proud of the work they have done and the result we have achieved together, it is not me, we have done it as a team.”
A number of Lib Dem and Tory heavyweights made Mid-Dorset & North Poole a priority stop during the campaign. David Cameron and Nick Clegg both visited the constituency in a bid to bolster support.
Meanwhile, Richard Turner, UKIP, secured 5,663 votes, while Patrick Canavan, Labour, received 2,767.
The Green Party’s Mark Chivers polled 1,321.
Mrs Slade said: “We need to rebuild the party, the Lib Dems are not dead and buried. We need to look at where we’ve gone wrong but we still need to be there as a progressive party for people.
“Unfortunately the national wind was against us. I’m feeling heartbroken right now, genuinely heartbroken.”