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ELECTION: Conservative topples Lib Dem Harris
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT Evan Harris this morning lost his seat in Oxford West and Abingdon to Conservative Nicola Blackwood.
The result was declared just after 4am and Dr Harris ended up the wrong side of a 176-vote result.
A recount had to be held as initially only a few hundred votes separated Dr Harris from his Tory rival Miss Blackwood, 30.
Dr Harris had still not appeared at the count at the Vale of White Horse Tennis and Leisure Centre in Abingdon.
Voters had queued up at polling stations in Oxford and Abingdon from the morning.
Neil Fawcett, Dr Harris’s election agent, said: “People in places like Jericho and North Oxford were queuing from 11am. That is new. It usually only happens later in the day when people have come home from work.
“It is clear students are voting in large numbers. But it is difficult to judge whether this big turnout in Oxford West and Abingdon could be put down to students going to vote or whether it could be Conservatives who want to get rid of Gordon Brown.”
The election battle in Oxford West and Abingdon provoked the most bitter and personal attacks, which fuelled claims of slurs and dirty tricks.
The campaign saw Dr Evan Harris come in for a series of personal attacks because of his views on abortion and euthanasia.
He was the subject of an angry leaflet campaign branding him “Dr Death”.
Dr Harris responded by saying: “I am proud of my record speaking out on medical ethical issues.”
He also came under attack from animal activists, with Keith Mann standing against Dr Harris for the Animal Protection Party.
Mr Mann, who spent seven years in prison for arson attacks on slaughterhouse lorries in the early nineties, said at today’s count, held at the Vale of White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre, that taking votes from Dr Harris had been his main intention.
He said: “I wanted to challenge because of his support for animal testing in Oxford, but also because of his desire to extend the abortion time limit.”
The outcome of Oxford West and Abingdon was made even harder to call by the Boundary Commission decision to switch Carfax and Holywell to East Oxford.
The wards are home to 8,000 students, including those in many Oxford University colleges.
The inclusion of villages such as Yarnton and Begbroke in the constituency for the first time added to uncertainty about the outcome, while boosting hopes for the Conservative candidate Miss Blackwood.
Speaking before the result, Ms Blackwood said: “The turnout has been tremendous. People have listened and paid attention to the arguments.
“Whatever happens it shows that people in Oxford West and Abingdon have not abandoned politics, after the scandals. That had seemed to be the case last year.
“But the election has brought people back into politics to debate the issues.”
Ms Blackwood, who moved to Oxford when she was two months old, said being a local woman had boosted her campaign.
She said: “I think people have more confidence if you live in the same area.
“We have had tremendous support from Oxfordshire with people coming in to help from Gloucestershire and Aylesbury.”
She said that she will continue to press for electoral reform.