WATCH: Reaction from the count as Neil O’Brien wins the Harborough seat

Conservative Neil O’Brien is the new MP for Harborough, after gaining 52.3 per cent of the votes in the constituency, and a comfortable 12,000-plus majority.

Neil (38), a special adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May, gained a very similar proportion of the Harborough vote last night as his long-serving Conservative predecessor Sir Edward Garnier did in 2015 - 52.3 per cent, compared to Sir Edward’s 52.7 per cent. Barrister Sir Edward (64) decided not to stand at this election.

Neil O'Brien wins his seat for Harborough.
PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-170906-041114005

Neil O'Brien wins his seat for Harborough. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-170906-041114005

After the election result was announced at about 3.30am this morning (Fri), Harborough’s new MP said he thanked the people of Harborough, Oadby and Wigston for “placing their trust in me today”.

He said Sir Edward, who had represented Harborough for 25 years, had left “huge shoes to fill”, but he now wanted, like Sir Edward, to be a good constituency MP for everyone in Harborough, however they voted.

Not a local man, he had been criticised in some quarters for being “parachuted” into the constituency.

But he said that he and his family were already living in rented accommodation in the constituency, and now planned to buy a home in Harborough.

Neil O'Brien wins his seat for Harborough.
PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-170906-041128005

Neil O'Brien wins his seat for Harborough. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-170906-041128005

While the Conservative vote in Harborough held firm, the picture was more mixed nationally for the party.

Privately, local Conservative activists at the election count at Parklands Leisure Centre in Oadby, rated the party’s national campaign as somewhere between “disappointing”and “dreadful”.

Labour meanwhile, saw their share of the vote increase nationally.

That was very much reflected in Harborough, where Andy Thomas gained a good second place with 17,706 votes, or 30.7 per cent of the total.

It was the biggest share of the Harborough vote that Labour had gained since Harold Wilson led the party in 1970.

“I think people recognised that Mr Corbyn was a man of principle who avoided the pantomime of name-calling politics and concentrated on a manifesto he believed in” said Andy Thomas.

The “not Conservative” vote has clearly swung to Labour in the constituency, with Liberal Democrat Zuffar Haq a distant third with 7,286 votes (12.6 per cent).

The UKIP vote faded very badly, despite a hard-working candidate in Teck Keong Khong. He gained 1,361 votes, compared to 7,539 for UKIP just two years ago.

Darren Woodiwiss for the Green Party also lost votes - 1,100 this time; 2,177 in 2015.

The Harborough constituency reflected a national trend in a return to the old two-party Conservative v Labour politics, as the smaller parties were squeezed.

With most seats declared at the time of writing, 86 per cent of people across the UK had voted either Conservative or Labour.