Ex-Harper Adams student wins Somerton and Frome by-election

Ex-Harper Adams University graduate and Liberal Democrat Sarah Dyke overturned a 19,000 Conservative majority to win the Somerton and Frome by-election.

Ms Dyke was elected as MP for the seat with 21,187 votes (54.6%) – a majority of 11,008, in a 28.4% swing from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems.

Tory candidate Faye Purbrick came second, receiving 10,179 votes, the Green Party’s Martin Dimery was third with 3,944 votes, and Labour’s Neil Guild was fourth with 1,009 votes.

See also: Farmer support for Tories waning as problems mount up

Ms Dyke replaces scandal-hit Conservative David Warburton, who resigned as an MP last month after he admitted taking cocaine.  

She lives in the heart of Somerset and hails from a farming family that can trace their local roots back more than 250 years. And she has vowed to protect the rural way of life and be a strong voice for agriculturalists.

In her victory speech, Ms Dyke thanked lifelong Conservative voters who had voted Lib Dem for the first time, and Labour and Green supporters for “lending” her party their votes.

“Tonight has been a stunning and historic victory for the Liberal Democrats,” she said.

“And it shows, once and for all, the Liberal Democrats are back in the West Country.”

People ‘let down’

In an interview with Sky News afterwards, Ms Dyke said people had been “let down by this Conservative government”, and they had not had a voice in her constituency for 15-16 months.

“I’m going to turn this around and be an active MP here in this constituency,” she said.

People were feeling “angry and frustrated” and they wanted change, she added.

Ms Dyke is a Somerset County Council councillor for Blackmoor Vale and is lead member for environment and climate change. She previously studied agriculture and business studies at Harper Adams University in Shropshire.

Labour victory

Meanwhile, Labour won the Selby and Ainsty by-election with a majority of more than 20,000 votes, with Keir Mather, 25, becoming the youngest MP in parliament.

Commenting on the win, Labour’s shadow Defra secretary Daniel Zeichner told Farmers Weekly: “It’s an excellent result for Labour that shows we can now win in a whole range of seats, including those with a significant rural component.” 

The Conservatives held on to Boris Johnson’s former constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip after local Tory councillor Steve Tuckwell beat Labour’s Danny Beales by just 495 votes.

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