Photos: Mike Clark
By David Bentley and Tony Earnshaw
CONSERVATIVE Mark Eastwood took the Dewsbury seat from Labour incumbent Paula Sherriff on a night of massive Tory gains nationwide.
In a closely-fought two-horse campaign Mr Eastwood polled 26,179 votes, with Ms Sherriff coming in second with 24,618.
Mr Eastwood, a local Tory activist for the last decade, had previously stood six times in Kirklees Council elections and took the seat in his first candidacy as a parliamentary hopeful.
He overturned Ms Sherriff’s 3,321 majority from 2017 and said winning was “a great feeling”.
“To coin a footballing phrase, I’m over the moon – very pleased," he said.
Mr Eastwood acknowledged the “fantastic result” for the Tories both locally and nationally.
And he put some of his success down to running a positive campaign in his home town.
“There has been quite a lot of unpleasantness in politics. Maybe Brexit has contributed to that.
“I would like to see politics be a bit nicer in the future."
In a magnanimous acceptance speech he paid tribute to Ms Sherriff for being a hard-working MP for the town and said there had never been a bad word between them.
He said he will be travelling by train to Westminster early next week as part of Boris Johnson’s majority.
And he reiterated his pledge: “The first priority will be to get Brexit over the line.”
"When you're in a 'Leave' area where 57 per cent voted Leave, people want that vote respecting.
"We encountered a number of people on the doorstep who said they'd voted Labour all their lives that said they'd be switching to the Conservatives, and I think that was reflected in the result.
"The unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn was also a major issue. One chap said he was on the picket line with Arthur Scargill and said he'd be voting for me, which was pleasantly surprising.
"We knew it was going to be positive and we felt we could win it, but we knew it was going to a tight result in the end."
Looking to the future he said “the hard work starts now” and, adopting the mantra of Boris Johnson, added: “Let’s get Brexit done.”
An exhausted-looking Paula Sherriff left Cathedral House in Huddersfield soon after the count without speaking to the media.
In Batley & Spen Tracy Brabin held on to her seat for Labour, seeing off the challenge of Conservative Mark Brooks with a reduced majority.
Ms Brabin polled 22,594 votes while Mr Brooks, a Kent-based businessman who had only been selected three weeks prior to the election date, got 19,069.
Independent Paul Halloran came third with 6,432 votes.
In her acceptance speech Ms Brabin said: "I never thought growing up in Howden Clough that I'd be stood here as my home town's MP having won a third election in four years. Words cannot describe how pleased I am to represent the community that made me the woman I am today.
"I'll be honest it's been difficult at times to get our message out there. Brexit has so often dominated the discussion, and our community has been divided for three years because of it.
"For the sake of our wellbeing and our prosperity going forwards this cannot continue.
"I've run an honest and fair campaign, but when we allow ourselves to spin off into our own tribes we risk polarising our community further.
"We see great work being done in Batley & Spen but it's not enough. "It's not enough to say 'dial down the rhetoric, listen to others, accept difference', we must work harder to live it."
Former Labour councillor Eric Firth returned to Kirklees politics by winning the Dewsbury East council by-election, which was also held yesterday (Thurs).
The by-election was called following the death of Labour stalwart Paul Kane and Mr Firth, who was unseated from the Dewsbury East ward by Independent Aleks Lukic last year, polled 3,299 votes to reclaim his place as a councillor. The Conservatives' Keith Mallinson was second with 2,669 and Chris Stoner (Dewsbury Borough Independents - Heavy Woollen District) was third with 1,515.
RESULTS IN FULL
Batley & Spen:
Tracy Brabin (Labour and Co-operative) 22,594 43%
Mark Brooks (Conservative) 19,069 36%
Paul Halloran (Batley Borough Independents - Heavy Woollen District) 6,432 12%
John Lawson (Liberal Democrat) 2,462 5%
Clive Minihan (Brexit Party) 1,678 3%
Ty Akram (Green Party) 692 1%
Total votes: 52,927
Number of ballot papers rejected: 104
Mark Eastwood (Conservative) 26,179 46%
Paula Sherriff (Labour) 24,618 44%
John Edward Rossington (Liberal Democrat) 2,406 4%
Philip James (Brexit Party)1,874 3%
Simon Cope (Green Party) 1,060 2%
Sir Archibald Earl 'Eaton Stanton (Official Monster Raving Loony Party) 252 0%
Total votes: 56,389
Number of ballot papers rejected: 272
Dewsbury East by-election:
Eric Firth (Labour and Co-operative) 3,299 42%
Keith Mallinson (Conservative) 2,669 34%
Chris Stoner (Dewsbury Borough Independents - Heavy Woollen District) 1,515 19%
Dennis Hullock (Liberal Democrat) 380 5%
Total votes: 7,863
Number of ballot papers rejected: 68