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UK: Conservative Party holds on to David Cameron's vacant seat in parliament

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By Pierre Bertrand
UK: Conservative Party holds on to David Cameron's vacant seat in parliament

The Conservative Party in the UK has held on to former Prime Minister David Cameron’s place in parliament, winning the by-election for the vacant Witney seat.

Conservative candidate Robert Courts won the election by 5,702 votes receiving 45 percent of the electorate.

A by-election was called in Witney, Oxfordshire after Cameron last month resigned from political office in the wake of the Brexit vote.

But while the Conservatives held on to the Witney seat, their majority control there has taken a hit.

Witney has historically voted overwhelmingly Conservative in previous elections going back decades.

When Cameron was re-elected in 2015, he won 60 percent of the vote in his constituency.

The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat party saw its support skyrocket in this election, gaining 30 percent of the electorate from just seven percent in the 2015 election. Liberal Democrat candidate Liz Leffman won 11,611 votes.

Renewed Lib-Dem support was enough to knock the UK Labour Party into third place after it won 14 percent of the vote.

The swing towards the Liberal Democrats in a Conservative heartland suggests the Tories could face a stronger than expected challenge in the UK’s 2020 general election.

Witney voted 54 to 46 percent in favour of remaining in the European Union during the June 23 referendum.

Indeed, the Witney by-election was seen in some quarters as the first litmus test for new Prime Minister Theresa May and its result may lead some to question her stewardship of the party and the country.

Courts ran a campaign promising to improve roads and local infrastructure, increase the numbers of affordable homes to assure local residents don’t get priced out of the region, increase support for local businesses and finally improve the access to and delivery of high speed internet.

Cameron congratulated Courts on his election victory, saying he would be a “great” MP.

The election was a disappointing result for the local Green Party candidate Larry Sanders, whose brother Bernie, a US Senator, publically supported his campaign a week before the by-election.

Finishing in fourth place, Larry Sanders won 1,363 votes, or 3.5 percent of the electorate.