Greg Hands’ victory reflects story of Conservatives’ night

Christian Smith
December 13 2019, 09:47

Greg Hands holding Chelsea and Fulham reflects the story of the election in traditional Conservative strongholds.

Having won the constituency at each election since its establishment in 2010, this election appeared that it would be Mr Hands’ toughest since his first victory in 2010.

He said in his victory speech: “Back in September we were predicted to not win this constituency.”

In a constituency where more than 70% of voters backed Remain, it is not hard to see why, and the Liberal Democrats’ new poster-girl Nicola Horlick loomed menacingly on the horizon.

But like many Liberal Democrats, Ms Horlick said that what she found on the doorsteps was not a love of a Conservative Brexit but a fear of Jeremy Corbyn.

In the end, Mr Hands won the seat by 11,241 more votes than second placed Ms Horlick.

Mr Hands disagreed with this analysis. He said: “Jeremy Corbyn would be a disaster for Chelsea and Fulham, that’s clear.

“But I think it was also down to the fact that I was the local candidate who had a good local track record, actually a great record of delivery and a promise of more.”

The former Minister in the Department of International Trade, who resigned from the government last year over Theresa May’s decision to build a third runway at Heathrow.

He said: “It is great to win for the fifth time but for me it is the sweetest win of all. We have turned the situation around with the help on an incredible army of volunteers and activists.

“It looks like we have won every ward tonight.”

Unlike some Conservative colleagues, Hands found favour with voters in Chelsea and Fulham with his middle of the road view on Brexit. But he has no intention of reversing away from Brexit now.

He said: “I have always been clear that I will vote for the agreement that the Prime Minister’s negotiated with the European Union, and I will vote for that agreement and I expect us to now be leaving the European Union before January 31 next year.”

However, as the national discussion turns to the nature of the post-Brexit trade deal, Mr Hands refused to be drawn on whether he would push for a closer relationship with the EU.

He said: “I think there is enough time to do [the trade agreement], but I think it is too early to say exactly what the agreement will look like.”

Mr Hands has not ruled out returning to a ministerial position in the new government.

What that may mean for the future of Heathrow’s third runway is unclear. In an interview with LBC’s Nick Ferrari on Monday, Mr Johnson said of his famous promise to lie down in front of the bulldozers that he would “have to find some way of honouring that promise”.

Labour candidate Matt Uberoi came in third in Chelsea and Fulham with 10,872 ballots, while the Animal Welfare Party’s Samuel Morland earned himself 500 votes. 46,979 people cast a ballot, up 3.7% from 2017.

Despite winning more votes, the higher turnout meant that Mr Hands’ overall majority actually fell by 2.7% to 49.9%.

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