THE CONSERVATIVE party has retained its seat in the Wantage constituency, with a new MP replacing Ed Vaizey after he quit politics last month.

Leading candidate David Johnston snatched the election with 34,085 votes, followed by Liberal Democrat candidate Richard Benwell with 21,432, Labour candidate Jonny Roberts with 10,181 and Independent candidate Mark Gray with 1,475.

Mr Johnston, who voted for the Leave campaign in the EU referendum, also backed Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal earlier this year.

Voter turnout was marginally lower this year, falling from 79.6 per cent in 2017 to 74.27 per cent.  

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Acting returning officer Margaret Reed announced the results at 5.05am this morning to a cheering crowd of volunteers and supporters.

The newly-elected MP said: “It’s a real honour to be chosen as the MP for this constituency.

“My predecessor always said that he had the best constituency and I think he is right.

“I have loved the conversations I have had with people all across, whether they were voting for me or not.”

Mr Johnston acknowledged he was selected later than all other candidates but said he hopes that Wantage residents will consider him ‘an effective advocate’ for all.

Liberal Democrat Richard Benwell said: “The Conservative majority that was in place has been severely dented here in Wantage.

“We are at a strong position to challenge them next time.

“If Brexit goes ahead and goes as badly as we expected to then it could well be that the public demand, we go to the polls sooner than 2024."

Labour candidate Jonny Roberts called the results ‘disastrous’ and added: “We are obviously headed for a hard Brexit now and we are going to have to deal with that”.

Although it does not appear Mr Johnston has previously stood as an MP, he was a chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, a charity which aims to make improvements in social mobility for young people from low-income backgrounds.

Before stepping down this year, he held the post for 10 years and in 2018 he received an OBE for his services in social mobility and education.

Mr Johnston said: “I’ve never been in politics before and I decided to go in because I was sick of us just talking about Brexit and I wanted to get back to the issues that I cared about the most that affected people’s lives.

“This evening’s result is a pretty clear indication nationally that the British people would also like to get back to the issues that affect people’s lives and I will be one of the people fighting to do that.”

The candidate campaigned for more police services, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improvements for the A34.

Mr Johnston was selected by the local Conservative association after former culture minister Ed Vaizey announced on November 6 that he would not be standing for re-election, to focus on his passion for the arts and creative industries.