Returning Tory MP Mark Field has pushed for a united approach towards Brexit following what he called a “grizzly” election result for the Conservatives in central London.
Mr Field managed to hold onto his seat in the Cities of London and Westminster in last Thursday’s ballot, despite a shift of more than 11% towards Labour’s Ibrahim Dogus in the traditionally Conservative stronghold, with just 3,000 votes between them.
His peers in Kensington and Battersea didn’t fare quite so well with both seats going Labour’s way. Other winning Tories in central London saw their margins shrink, including Greg Hands who dropped 8,166 votes in neighbouring Chelsea & Fulham and secretary of state for education Justine Greening, losing 2,339 votes in Putney.
Speaking to City Matters last Friday Mr Field said the election outcome, which saw Theresa May’s Conservatives fall 13 seats short of an overall majority in the House of Commons, was “a round two of the Brexit debate”.
“It was a difficult election for the Conservatives in London, particularly in central and west London with a large remain vote,” he said.
“I was remain myself and my majority went down by two thirds. Although Labour also played their part in triggering Article 50, I think there was a sense, particularly in London — where there is a binary choice between Labour and Conservatives — there was a desire for many voters on the remain side to punish the Conservatives, which I can understand.”
Voter turnout in the Cities of London & Westminster was the highest it has been since Tony Blair took power in 1997, with 38,654 people casting a ballot, an increase of more than 2,400 on 2015.
Election day exit polls were suggesting a close battle for the normally safe Conservative seat, with YouGov predicting a tossup between Mr Field at 41% and Mr Dogus at 39% based on voter intentions.
It wasn’t quite so tight when the results came in around 3am Friday morning, with Mr Field declared the winner with 47% of the vote, ahead of Mr Dogus on 38%. Liberal Democrat Bridget Fox netted 11%, up 4.1% on 2015 while Greens teenager Lawrence McNally finished on 2.1%
Mr Field said that he was “delighted” to be re-elected albeit with a narrower margin than in previous years (he won with 52% and 54% in 2010 and 2015 respectively).
He pledged to redouble efforts to address the concerns of local constituents, although did not identify any particular issues upon which he would be making his presence felt, preferring instead to keep the immediate focus on the bigger picture; namely trying to secure a majority.
“We’ve got 50-60 seats more than the Labour party so it is incumbent on us to try and find a way to make a government work,” he said.
Theresa May is currently trying to hammer out a confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP – a looser arrangement than a formal coalition, which would lead to the Northern Irish party backing the Conservatives on major votes.
This could take a ‘hard’ Brexit off the table as the DUP has spoken out against an extreme exit from the European Union and its willingness to keep an open border with the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Field said he didn’t think the arrangement would have a dramatic impact on the Brexit model, but made a point of calling for participation from every corner.
“One thing for all for us here in London on the Brexit issue in its aftermath is it’s still a very alive issue,” he said.
“Without wishing to frustrate the will of the people, I do think we need to have as many voices as possible and I hope the Conservative Party does reach out to other voices in other political parties to make sure in the national interest we are able to properly address and discuss all of these issues.
“If it’s one message that comes out of the very narrow result in the overall election it is the sense that as many voices from all political parties need to be engaged.”