THE Brexit Party won the most votes in the New Forest as the local European parliament election results saw the Conservatives squeezed into third place by the Liberal Democrats.
Nigel Farage’s new group gained 23,854 votes in the district followed by the Lib Dems on 12,153 and the Tories trailing in third with 6,466.
The Tories – who rule the district council and have both the local MPs – ended up only just ahead of the fourth-placed Greens with 6,305 votes. Labour received 1,840, Change UK 1,817, and UKIP 1,351.
The New Forest is part of the 10-seat south-east electoral region which returned four Brexit Party MEPs, including Mr Farage himself. The Lib Dems won three seats, with one each for the Tories, Labour and the Greens.
Mr Farage said: “Never before in British politics has a party just six weeks old won a national election. If Britain does not leave the EU on 31st October, these results will be repeated at a general election. History has been made. This is just the beginning.”
The headline national results were 29 seats for the Brexit Party which took 32% of the vote, followed by the Lib Dems with 16 (19%), Labour 10 (14%), Greens seven (11%) and the Tories four (9%).
The Lib Dems’ deputy leader of the New Forest District Council opposition group, Cllr Rebecca Clark, welcomed the party’s “astonishing” performance, which follows its revival in the recent local elections where it grew its councillors from two to 13.
Cllr Clark said: “We firmly believe that voters in the New Forest, and right across the UK, should be able to choose whether a deal is the right deal for Britain’s future. If it’s not, then we should be able to reject it and remain in the European Union.”
In 2016 the New Forest voted in favour of leaving the EU by 58% to 42%.
The district’s turnout in the vote last Thursday was 39% with 54,171 ballots cast. The south-east results were declared at Southampton Civic Centre on Sunday.
Sir Desmond Swayne, Tory MP for New Forest West, described the outcome as a “disastrous wipe-out” for his party. He blamed Theresa May’s poor campaigning in the 2017 general election for the hung parliament that has led to the current Brexit deadlock.
Referring to the Tory leadership contest following Mrs May’s promise to resign on Friday 7th June, he wrote on his website: “Whether the government can now recover the confidence of the nation under a new prime minister, it’s too soon to tell.”
The Brexit Party also led the way in the south-west region, which includes Christchurch, where it took three of the six seats up for grabs, including one by Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory minister.
The Lib Dems won two and the Greens one. The Tories and Labour were both left empty-handed.
In the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council area, the Brexit Party gained the most votes with 42,179. The Lib Dems were second with 21,389, followed by the Greens with 15,204. The turnout there was 35.9%.
The south-west regional count was declared at the Civic Centre in Poole. The overall turnout was 40% compared to 37% in 2014.