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VIDEO: Labour win Peterborough and NW Cambs but it was close run

Sam was just 3 years old when Shailesh Vara was first elected

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Bizarrely the BBC in their Cambridgeshire round-up of election coverage referred on their website to “election coverage from across Cambridgeshire” but grouped six of the eight constituencies separately from Peterborough and NW Cambridgeshire.

I have never understood the reasoning but perhaps devolution creating a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority instead of Cambridgeshire Combined Authority can partly be held responsible for this constant separation.

Sam Carling; Election count underway. Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Thursday 04 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

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Be that as it may, the political landscape of Cambridgeshire changed massively overnight, with the election of 3 Liberal Democrat MPs, 3 Labour MPs and 2 Conservatives.

Election count results in as Labour Candidate Andrew Pakes becomes new MP for Peterborough Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough
Friday 05 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Back in December when Sam Carling, then 21, and a Labour city councillor in Cambridge, announced he wanted to be his party’s candidate to take on Shailesh Vara in NW Cambridgeshire it looked, as CambsNews suggested at the time, a classic David v Goliath moment.

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Vara had been the incumbent Conservative MP for nearly two decades and in 2019 his majority of just under 26,000 seemed unassailable.

Andrew Pakes becomes new MP for Peterborough  Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Friday 05 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Little did we know what the following months would bring.

It culminated, of course, in the surprise election of Carling who beat Vara by just 39 votes.

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Politics of Peterborough, a local Twitter site, summed it up succinctly, reflecting on the swing of over 20 per cent to unseat the incumbent MP.

Paul Bristow. Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Friday 05 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

“So, Sam Carling will be the new baby of the House, or youngest Member of Parliament, when he takes up his seat. He was just 3 years old when Shailesh Vara was elected to the seat for the first time.”

Election count underway as Paul Bristow awaits the outcome. Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Friday 05 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

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NW Cambs, and Peterborough, were both close calls but both seats are now Labour.

Pictures Paul Bristow’s wife appears upset after Paul loses his seat. Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Friday 05 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

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And both losing candidates – Shailesh Vara and for the Peterborough seat Paul Bristow – were magnanimous in their congratulatory post defeat support for Sam Carling and Andrew Pakes.

Election count underway Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Friday 05 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

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Election count Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Friday 05 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Election count  Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Friday 05 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Mr Vara congratulated Sam and said the central feature of democracy is the pendulum of power that swings at regular intervals “and it certainly swung today in a huge way”.

Pictured Sam Carling – election count underway Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Thursday 04 July 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

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He congratulated Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Government “on this massive victory that will go down in history – it is not easy to govern this great country of ours with all the issues and problems. I genuinely wish Sir Keir as the new prime minister well as he seeks to do good for the citizens of the UK

Election count underway, Kingsgate Centre, Peterborough Thursday 04 July 2024. Above: Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald (former leader of Peterborough City Council) keeping an eye on proceedings.  Picture by Terry Harris.

“The Conservative party will of course have to reflect very carefully as to why this has faced this defat in this manner. That is a debate and discussion for another day.”

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Paul Bristow also congratulated his Labour victor Andrew Pakes reminding him “he has got a fantastic job to represent Peterborough – it has been the privilege of my life. I hope he enjoys this job”.

He promised to continue his “effective campaigning machine” in Peterborough and said it was not the last we can expect to see or hear from him.

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“Locally – this was my loss,” he said. “To my supporters – I am sorry it wasn’t quite enough.”

Mr Bristow said he was disappointed but could take some comfort from the fact he did far better than other Conservative colleagues.

Cambridge city councillor in ‘David v Goliath’ bid to oust NW Cambs MP Shailesh Vara

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He told the BBC: “We have made real mistakes nationally- and those responsible for these mistakes should ask themselves serious questions on their responsibility in all of this.

“I hope they will apologise to MPs and candidates who lost. And if they do, then they can have a role in rebuilding the party.”

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