VIDEO: Tension rising at Harrogate election count

Tension is rising at the Harrogate and Knaresborough general election count.

The electorate stands at 76,408 this year, slightly up from 2010 when it was 75,269 and expectation is that more people have turned out to vote this time and that turnout could top the 71 per cent in 2010.

The count in Harrogate

The count in Harrogate

Nationally exit polls suggest that the Conservatives are in the lead and could end up just short of a majority.

There are around 150 people in the hall at the Harrogate International Centre, though the two main candidates Andrew Jones, Conservatives and Helen Flynn, Lib Dem aren’t arriving until later in the night.

UKIP candidate David Simister is anxiously watching as the 99 volunteers count the ballots, with Green Party candidate Shan Oakes is watching from the other side of the room.

Harrogate Borough Council said polling had all gone smoothly today where thousands of people voted at 77 polling stations across the Harrogate Districts.

Peter Flynn, agent for Lib Dem candidate Helen Flynn, said the campaign had been a good one in Harrogate but that they had a difficult job.

He said: “In 2010 the Lib Dems were polling at 24 per cent, this time its looking like eight to nine per cent nationally. That’s a 15 per cent swing against us in the national picture, which means that if that happened here is would be very significant.

“We think we ran a really good campaign, we don’t think we’ll suffer as badly as the national picture here but it would be remarkable to over turn the head wind nationally to get a result here.”

He added: “We’re pleased with the campaign, we had a good candidate.”

Harrogate Council leader Richard Cooper (Con, High Harrogate) who has worked on Conservative Andrew Jones campaign, said: “I think it is looking very positive. It has been a very tiring campaign though. One thing I have noticed is that Andrew is very well known in the area.

“Like Phil Willis before him he has become better known as a constituency champion more than a politician.”

He added: “It would be a lie to say that the national picture and local picture are totally separate from one another but Harrogate and Knaresborough has over the years really think about the vote on a local level.”

Pat Marsh, Lib Dem campaigner said: “I wouldn’t want to be in Helen’s shoes that is for sure. Campaigning has gone very well and she has been well received on the door steps, but she started on the back foot because he [Andrew Jones} is already in so she has to knock him off his perch so to speak, which is always difficult.”

Green Party candidate Shan Oakes said she wants to see the end of first past the post voting after this election.

She said: “Today I have been appalled by the number of people doing tactical voting, it is so disheartening. No-one is voting for what they want, I have spoken to so many people saying I want to vote Green but I want the Tories out so I have to vote for someone else.

“We have to stop this system, we need proportional representation so that everyone knows their vote is being heard. If everyone who wanted to vote Green had I think we would have come second, easily.”

The counting is continuing, though early indications suggest that Conservative Andrew Jones looks like he could hold his seat. A Conservative source said he could win ‘by a country mile’.

David Simister said he wanted to make sure he got his £500 deposit back.

“Everybody who stands does want their deposit back. I am not nervous we have not had anything to lose and it is looking at the moment that we have done a lot more than five years ago. It is encouraging to see how many people are voting for us.

“The count is looking very close, I didn’t know what to expect, it has been hard to predict on a national level.”

Mr Simister is also standing for UKIP in the Bilton ward for the District Council which will be announced tomorrow.

He said: “I hope we will see two or more seats in the district council, we need to get some some fresh blood in that council.”