It was a muted celebration as a clearly humbled Nigel Evans thanked his supporters for delivering another clear victory and returning him as Ribble Valley’s Conservative MP.
He polled 25,404 votes - only 894 fewer than his 2010 total – to finish way out in front of his nearest opponent, Labour’s David Hinder on 11,798.
That gives Mr Evans a clear and significant 13,606 majority, only down by 1,190 on his 2010 majority. In his acceptance speech Mr Evans made a passing reference to his Crown Court ordeal last year when he stood accused of a range of sex offences, including rape.
He was acquitted on all charges, but many predicted that the salacious revelations of the court case would end his political career anyway.
Unbowed, he began rebuilding that career, winning back the trust of supporters who have elected him as Ribble Valley’s MP for more than 20 years. Being selected to stand as Parliamentary candidate by his local Conservative Association was a major hurdle, but having cleared it Mr Evans has now proved more than worthy of the trust placed in him to succeed.
Making significant gains were UKIP, their candidate Shirley Parkinson polling 8,250 votes to finish in third place – more than double the party’s 2010 Ribble Valley total of 3,496.
Conversely, the Liberal Democrats fell away badly, Jackie Pearcey polling just 2,756 votes – barely enough to avoid losing their deposit and down by 7,976 votes on their 2010 total.
The remainder of the eight candidates did all lose their deposit by failing to poll more than 5% of the total vote. They were Graham Sowter, of the Green Party, who polled 2,193; Independents David Brass on 1,498 and Grace Astley on 288, and Independent Political Alliance Party candidate Tony Johnson on just 56 votes.
A clearly dejected and disappointed David Brass, who stood on a “No More Nigel” ticket, said he did not mind losing his deposit or the thousands spent on his hard-fought campaign: “It’s never been about the money,” he said, “it’s about the principles.”