Henry Smith has been voted in as MP for Crawley for the third time, though with a much-reduced majority.
At around 4am today (Friday June 9), acting returning officer Anne Marie Brown announced Henry had secured 25,426 votes, beating Labour candidate Tim Lunnon, who earned 22,969 votes.
Liberal Democrat Marko Scepanovic came in third with 1,878 votes.
This General Election proved to be a bigger battle than the last for Henry. There was an air of inevitability to the 2015 campaign, with few doubting he would win. He did so soundly, with a majority of more than 6,500.
Not so this time, but it was still a solid victory with a tidy 2,457 majority.
It appears the days of whip thin majorities - such as Laura Moffatt’s 37 in 2005 - are a thing of the past for Crawley.
Henry’s sights are now set firmly on the future. He said: “Obviously it’s always thrilling to win an election. I’ve won elections here and I’ve lost elections here in the past so I always take it in a very sober way - although I might just have a drink tomorrow night - but elections are close here in Crawley and races are keenly fought, so I never take anything for granted.”
His political career has now reached its 20th year. He was elected to West Sussex County Council on May 1 1997.
Henry said: “I think I know Crawley politics and Crawley as a town pretty well - mess with Crawley at your peril - I’m here to serve Crawley so, a brief celebration but there’s lots of work to be getting on with.”
Looking at the work ahead, he told reporters he was keen to see a lower tax regime for local businesses “because I think that creates more employement and more wealth so we can afford our public services”.
He added that he wanted to see more health care services returning to Crawley Hospital.
Henry has been a staunch supporter of Brexit in the past - and his views have not changed.
He said: “I supported Brexit last year and I still do. I think that we are a global Britain with unique links. I think our strength as a country is as an island trading nation, given our unique global links and yet our proximity to Europe.
“Crawley is very much an international city. Not just because of Gatwick Airport but also the people, the communities, who make up Crawley, and indeed world leading companies that export around the world and are household names. So it’s not a rejection of European trade or European co-operation. I think we need to broaden our horizons, as Crawley so often has, and I think we can as a country. Crawley is a microcosm of the country.”
He added: “The environment of Crawley and indeed the country is something I’m very passionate about. And I think as we leave the European Union there is actually an opportunity for us to enhance our environmental protection.
“Crawley has challenges in terms of the environment, such as Gatwick, the M23 and so forth, and those need a lot of attention.”
Then there was the issue of education funding.
In the past Henry has said his role as parliamentary private secretary to the secretary of state for education gave him a “unique” chance to take the concerns of teachers and parents to the people who needed to hear them.
He would not be drawn on whether he would resume that role should the Tories retain control at Westminster, but said: “One of the last things before Parliament was disolved was starting to introduce the new National Funding Formula.
“West Sussex schools have done particularly badly out of the old block grant system. I’m very keen to get back to Parliament to make the case for Crawley schools.
“Things have been difficult and Crawley schools have started from a disadvantaged point because we’ve been under-funded for so long. That’s certainly going to be one of my key areas when I get back up to Westminster.”
Meanwhile Crawley’s Labour candidate, Tim Lunnon, has adopted a very British attitude to his defeat - he’s going to play cricket.
After watching Mr Smith retake the seat for the Conservatives by 25,426 votes to 22,969, Tim said he was going to: “Recover, enjoy the rest of the summer, maybe play some cricket, get back to running but also keep representing Broadfield South where I’m very proud to be a councillor.”
He seemed a little surprised to have fought such a close-run campaign, adding: “It was closer than we maybe anticipated it was going to be. Obviously nationally Labour have seen a better performance than many expected tonight - and we’ve seen that in Crawley.
“We’ve fought hard and maybe there will be future elections a lot sooner than we thought, so we’ll be ready to fight again.”
Tim said he was “tired but also happy with the result” - and he had clear ideas about the issues he would like to see Henry raise in Parliament.
He said: “I’d like to see education at the top of the agenda.
“Crawley schools are not worth less and we need to see more money put into them so they get the same funding as every other school in the country.”