Sunak grim-faced at rivals revel in party atmosphere

Rishi Sunak arrives at last night's count in Northallerton.

Almost a decade after being selected to fight the country’s safest Conservative seat, Rishi Sunak arrived grim-faced at Hambleton Leisure Centre facing a historic defeat party.

Flanked by his wife Akshata Murty and numerous protection officers, Mr Sunak ignored journalists’ questions as he marched into and away from the Richmond and Northallerton count, having spent the minimum amount of time at the venue before the result was announced.

It was clear Mr Sunak wasn’t stopping to greet any of his supporters or constituents as reporters asked him if the timing of the election had been a mistake.

Returning officer Barry Khan declared Mr Sunak had retained his seat, but the Tory leader’s despondent demeanour did not change as he walked to the rostrum to make his acceptance speech.

What came next though appeared to take all in the hall with a degree of surprise as Mr Sunak conceded the election, saying he had phoned Keir Starmer to congratulate him and that he was heading for London to clear out from Downing Street.

He also moved to quash speculation that he would stand down as an MP following what he described as a “difficult” night for the Conservatives, saying he intended to serve the constituency for years to come.

Ahead of his arrival, there had been a lively atmosphere at the count as colourfully dressed supporters of Count Binface, of the Count Binface Party and Sir Archbibald Stanton, of the Monster Raving Loony Party, announced their main aim to “have fun”.

Dressed in a long silver cape with a bin covering his head Count Binface said the main issue he was grappling with was how to scratch his nose.

He said he aimed to increase his best election return of 249 votes while Sir Archibald told reporters he had targeted the sitting prime minister’s seat for the publicity.

However, it was the supporters of Independent candidate, Youtuber Niko Omilana, wearing matching multi-coloured sunglasses, who drew most attention in the hall, applauding each and every vote for their candidate, to the amusement of many.

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Nevertheless, senior council officers said despite the lively atmosphere they were determined to maintain the probity of the count, and issued a warning as he began live streaming beside the ranks of counters. Later, police officers were seen studying the contents of his phone.

Besides the revelry, other candidates were trying to maintain their composure. Labour’s Tom Wilson said he was had been buoyed by a pleasant camapign which had seen his party win significant pockets of support.

He said: “I’m hoping to build on it after the election. In three years’ time there’s local elections in North Yorkshire and they’ll be active, passionate people in the constituency ready to fight for those seats.”

Former soldier and Reform candidate Lee Taylor also appeared upbeat as the counting continued, but said while he was disappointed the electors had “voted for failure” he had scored more votes than either the Tories or Labour in Scotton, near Catterick Garrison.

He said: “We need better people for our parliament to function correctly.”