New MP for Corby and East Northants Labour’s Andy Sawford kept his pledge to keep it local when he granted his first interview to the Telegraph.
Reporters Janet Bew and Helen O’Neill were invited to join Mr Sawford and his wife Jo on the car journey from Lodge Park Sports Centre, Corby, to nearby Middleton where Labour leader Ed Miliband was waiting to congratulate him.
Mr Sawford sailed to victory with 17,267 votes, with the Conservative’s Christine Emmett polling 9,476, Margot Parker for UKIP 5,108 and Liberal Democrat Jill Hope polling a disappointing 1,770.
In the car to Middleton the new MP was calm, cool and collected.
He said: “I feel really proud. This is an incredible honour and now there is a lot of work to do.
“People have put their trust in me to fight for services at Kettering General Hospital and to fight for jobs.
“At this moment what I feel most of all is an awareness that people will be looking at me now to fight for them.”
Mr Sawford campaigned against cuts to services at Kettering General Hospital under the Healthier Together review of five regional hospitals.
He said: “There is the opportunity now, as MP for Corby and East Northants, to seek specific assurances about the future of services at the hospital.
“I intend to keep the pressure up.”
Since former Conservative MP Louise Mensch resigned in August, Mr Sawford has fought a hard campaign, pledging at the beginning to knock on every door in the constituency.
And after his victory his priority, he said, was to spend time with his wife Jo and the couple’s children.
He said: “Now, obviously I will be seeing my kids. They haven’t seen much of me recently and I want to share the joy with my family.”
Mrs Sawford said: “I am incredibly proud of Andy. He has worked so hard.”
Proud too are Mr Sawford’s parents. Andy said: “I haven’t had a chance to talk to them since the result was announced but they are incredibly proud of me.
“My dad has been out knocking doors with me but it’s been my campaign. It was my name on the ballot paper.
“Parliament sits on Monday and I shall be there.
“I will be working hard in the constituency, holding regular surgeries in all the major towns. People will know where to get me. If they need help, I’ll be available.”
When the car pulled up in the car park of The Hunting Lodge, Cottingham, the first to greet Mr Sawford was Labour leader Ed Miliband.
He said: “Brilliant job. How do you feel?”
Talking to the Telegraph, Mr Miliband said: “It’s a great result. What the people of Corby and East Northants want now is an MP who will represent them and that is what this campaign has been about, and that is what Andy is going to make sure he does. He will take the message from this by-election to Westminster.
“He has always been about being a servant of this constituency and I think that’s what people responded to.
“They saw him knocking on doors, pounding the streets, doing the work. The work starts here for him as an MP, he’s very aware of that and I think he’ll do a great job.
“This sends a message to David Cameron that he’s on the wrong track and going in the wrong direction.
“This constituency is at the heart of this country and the people are at the heart of this country and have put their trust in Labour.
“I think the people of this constituency, of middle England, have said they are disappointed, that David Cameron has let them down.
“He said today he will listen and I hope he does.
“I hope he will listen to the young people, those who want to find work, to the people who say why are you putting up my taxes when you are cutting taxes for millionaires.
“I hope he listens to people who say they are concerned about local health services.
“I think the people here have chosen a first class MP.”
After the result was announced Tory candidate Christine Emmett said: “I want to congratulate Andy Sawford and wish him well.
“I hope he succeeds in serving the great people of Corby and East Northants well. I’ll be after him if he doesn’t.”
The leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, said: “This is a great result for UKIP, it confirms that we are now established as a third force in British politics. This is our best by-elelction result ever.
“We now move on to the by-elections in Middlesbrough and Rotherham where we already have a strong electoral footprint and we expect to do even better still.”
A disappointed Jill Hope from the Lib Dems said: “Because of the economic mess that Labour left behind the coalition government has had to take some hard and difficult decisions and I accept that, and because of that we have had a difficult election and it’s been a struggle.”
The full list of results:
Andy Sawford, Labour - 17,267
Christine Emmett, Conservatives - 9,476
Margot Parker, UKIP - 5,108
Jill Hope, Lib Dems - 1,770
Gordon Riddell, BNP - 614
David Wickham, The English Democrats - 432
Jonathan Hornett, The Green Party - 378
Ian Gillman, Independent - 212
Peter Reynolds, Cannabis Law Reform - 137
David Bishop, Elvis Loves Pets Party - 99
Mr Mozzarella, Independent - 73
Dr Rohen Kapur, Young People’s Party - 39
Adam Lotun, Democracy 2015 - 35
Christopher Scotton, United People’s Party - 25