Updated: Lewes Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker loses seat to Conservative Maria Caulfield

Norman Baker, now former MP for Lewes.
Norman Baker, now former MP for Lewes.
  • Norman Baker says he has no regrets and will open up the next phase of his life
  • New Lewes MP Maria Caulfield pledges to be the voice of her constituents in Westminster
  • Baker says Lib Dems paid the price for forming coalition with Conservatives

In a shock result today (Friday May 8) Lewes MP Norman Baker lost his seat to Conservative candidate Maria Caulfield.

Ms Caulfield secured 19,206 votes, while Mr Baker came in a close second with 18,123 votes.

Maria Caulfield

Maria Caulfield

Mr Baker has been the MP for Lewes since 1997 but narrowly missed out on retaining his seat against a background of a number of high profile Liberal Democrat MPs losing their place in the Houses of Parliament.

Ms Caulfield, who lives in Woodingdean, Brighton, a half a mile away from the Lewes constituency, told the Sussex Express: “I feel really honoured to be elected as a member of parliament. It still feels a bit strange to say that because it’s my local area and I have lived here for 15 years.”

When asked whether she might now move to live in the constituency she said she would consider either staying in Woodingdean or moving to live in the Lewes constituency, but added it would be hard to pick a place to live because it was such a beautiful area.

She said issues which came up on the doorstep, which had not been resolved, which contributed to her win included the A27, a second Brighton Mainline and health services being moved further away to Hastings.

Ms Caulfield added voters were faced with a choice between wanting David Cameron for Prime Minister or David Miliband and they chose Mr Cameron.

So did she expect to win?

“We did know it was going to be quite close. Norman is a really nice guy and we have got on really well in the campaign.

“He is such a hard working constituency MP,” she added.

In her speech at Lewes Leisure Centre Ms Caulfield, who thanked her campaign team, said: “Most of all my thanks go to the people of Lewes for placing their trust in me and my promise to them is that whether you are in Polegate, Seaford, Alfriston or East Dean any of the northern villages or Lewes itself I will work day and night to represent you and be your voice in Westminster.

“I would like to thank the Conservative Party for choosing a working class nurse like myself for this seat because very often you hear about politicians not being from the real world and I certainly am.

“I’m very humbled to be given this opportunity. But the people of Lewes have spoken and they are pleased with the work the Conservative Government did in the last parliament and they have asked us to continue that work for the next five years.”

Speaking to the dozens of people gathering to hear the results Mr Baker offered his congratulations and thanked Ma Caulfield for her kinds words.

He said: “There is no question this has been a terrible night for the Liberal Democrats nationally.

“We have paid the price for the courageous decision we took in 2010 to enter a coalition with the Conservatives.

“It was an invidious choice to either do that or allow a minority Conservative Government to be formed and inevitably it was going to be very difficult to sustain our levels of support in that situation but we put the country first. And I’m afraid we paid the price for it.

“We have also paid the price for the genuine concerns people have about the Scottish National Party and their influence in the way ahead and I do fear frankly for the union if we now have a Conservative Government in London and the SNP have taken almost all of the seats north of the border.

“And personally as someone who is from Aberdeen and supports the Union I fear it is doomed unless something dramatic changes in the future.”

Mr Baker thanked his campaign team for their hard work.

He continued: “I always knew this seat had been marginal. It was after all Conservative in 1874 and 1997 and now the Prague Spring is over it was always clear that there was a possibility that this seat would be lost.

“I remember reflecting on that myself making my last speech in the House of Commons.”

The former MP for Lewes added: “I have no regrets about this. If someone had said to me in 1987 when I first stood for the district council in Glynde, Firle and Beddingham that the deal was I would be a councillor for 16 years, an MP for 18 years, minister for four and a half years I would have said that is a pretty good deal.

“I have enjoyed myself as member of parliament and I hope I have done my best for the constituents in this area and I think you have a fantastic area to represent.

“I have no regrets. I will now return to being a private individual and open up the next phase of my life.”

The turnout was 73.01 per cent and the results were read out by Juliet Smith, the new High Sheriff of East Sussex.

In third place was UKIP candidate Ray Finch, with 5,427 votes, next was Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle with 5,000 and finally Green Party candidate Alfie Stirling with 2,784 votes.

In comparison the results from the 2010 election were Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat 26,048; Jason Sugarman, Conservative, 18,401; Hratche Koundarjian Labour, 2,508; Peter Charlton, UK Independence Party, 1,728; David LLoyd, Susan Murray, Green, 729; British National Party, 594 and Ondrej Soucek, Independent, 80.