It was a night of close shaves for British politics. The Scottish National party’s Stephen Gethins, who was saved from joining the ranks of defeated nationalists by just two votes, led the way. The MP now shares the joint prize for smallest majority in a Westminster seat since the second world war.
After three recounts, Mr Gethins was declared the winner of North East Fife — the last Scottish constituency to declare its result — with 13,743 votes, defeating Elizabeth Riches of the Liberal Democrats. Mr Gethins, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, said: “It was quite a long night.”
The SNP had another cliffhanger when Pete Wishart held on in Perth & Perthshire North with just 21 more votes than his Conservative rival.
Other narrow victories included a comeback for Zac Goldsmith, who regained Richmond Park by 45 votes only a few months after losing the seat to the Lib Dems.
The result in Kensington — a traditional Tory stronghold — has been put on hold after council tellers were sent home following two recounts with just 36 votes between the Conservatives and Labour.
Officials in the wealthy London borough said the tellers were exhausted after counting ballot papers all night and needed a break before starting again on a third count.
Amber Rudd, home secretary and a potential successor to Theresa May, faced a recount and squeaked home in Hastings and Rye by 346 votes, defeating her Labour rival with 25,668 against 25,322.
In Dudley North, there were three recounts before Labour’s Ian Austin retained his seat by a mere 22 votes. And Labour held on in Newcastle-under-Lyme with a majority of just 30 as Paul Farrelly beat Tory rival Owen Merideth.
However, Mr Gethins’ fight was not the closest in British politics in 2017. In May’s local council elections, the final spot on the 67-seat local administration in South Beach Blyth, Northumberland, was decided by drawing straws.
After three recounts, the Conservative and Lib Dem candidates tied for first place with 356 votes each. The county returning officer cut a straw in two and Lesley Rickerby, the Lib Dem candidate, was the victor.
In 2010, the battle for Fermanagh & South Tyrone in Northern Ireland was decided by just four votes when Michelle Gildernew clung on to the seat for Sinn Féin, while in 2005 the Labour MP Laura Moffatt retained the seat of Croydon by 37 votes.
The result that rivalled Mr Gethins’ razor-thin win came in 1997, when Mark Oaten won the seat of Winchester for the Lib Dems by two votes. The result was later declared void after a challenge by the incumbent Conservative, Gerry Malone — but the re-run had a rather different outcome when Mr Oaten romped home with a 21,556 majority.
“I certainly didn’t expect the scale of the defeat,” Mr Malone later told the Guardian newspaper. “And I couldn’t claim a 21,000 majority was a result of the weather.”
Spare a thought, too, for Gavin Barwell, who won Croydon Central in 2015 with a majority of only 165 votes. On the strength of it he wrote a book entitled How to Win a Marginal Seat: My Year Fighting For My Political Life.
On Friday morning, however, he lost that seat to Sarah Jones — the same opponent he beat two years ago — by a much bigger margin of 5,600.
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