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Steve Reed retains Croydon North for Labour as "divisive" Respect loses deposit

STEVE Reed retained the seat of Croydon North for Labour on a night which saw George Galloway's Respect party lose its deposit.
The leader of Lambeth Council won 15,898 votes (64.4%) with Conservative Andy Stranack in second with 4,137 (16.8%).
The turnout was a disappointing 26.53% - down from 60.6% in the 2010 general election - with candidates blaming the weather, the time of the year and general lack of interest in by-elections. The Labour share of the vote increased 8.4% compared to the 2010 General Election. Reed dedicated his victory to former Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks, who passed away in September, and said the result "sent a clear message to David Cameron".
Stranack said he was disappointed to come second in his home town but, referring to Respect finishing sixth, said he was pleased "community cohesion has won out over community division".
Despite bold claims that he could repeat the party's remarkable victory in the Bradford West by-election, Lee Jasper secured just 707 votes (2.8%) so fell below the five per cent needed to retain his deposit.
The Liberal Democrats were the biggest losers on the night, with candidate Marisha Ray surrendering her deposit, finishing fourth with 860 votes (3.5%) down 10.5% from 2010.
UKIP's Winston McKenzie finished third on 1,400 (5.7%) despite calls for him to de-selected over this comments to the Advertiser about gay adoption and same-sex marriage.
Reed, who will now step down from his position on Lambeth Council, said he was honoured to have been chosen to continue Malcolm Wicks' work.
He said: "I want to thank the people of Croydon North for putting their faith in me and Ed Miliband's 'One Nation' Labour Party.
"It's an honour to be the new MP for the seat Malcolm Wicks represented with such dedication for twenty years.
"I want to pay tribute to Malcolm who was respected and admired by people in Croydon and by those on all sides of politics as a decent, compassionate and thoughtful man.
"I dedicate this victory to him and I dedicate myself to continuing his work for the people of Croydon North."
Reed, who campaigned on his ability to create jobs, added: "Tonight the people of Croydon North sent a clear message to David Cameron.
"He cannot be the 'one nation' prime minister Britain needs if he stands by doing nothing while Croydon North faces one of the highest levels of youth unemployment in London.
"David Cameron needs to listen. People are hurting because his economic policies are not working. He must change course on the economy.
"What came across most in this campaign is that people in Croydon feel badly let down.."
Reed said Stranack had fought a "fair and challenging campaign".  The charity worker , who admitted that winning such a safe Labour seat was a "big challenge", can be heartened that a loss of 7.3% of the vote was less than the swing against the Conservatives in other by-elections in areas such as Manchester Central and Corby.
Stranack, who has cerebral palsy, hopes his example would lead other parties to select disabled candidates.  
He said: "I would like to challenge all the main party leaders to look at the inspiration of our Paralympians and take a bold decision to start selecting more candidates with disabilities.
"I believe that my team, and my opponents, will tell you that my disability has in no way held me back from running an energetic campaign."
In the build-up to the election Respect was accused of running a "divisive" campaign George Galloway announced his party would target black and Muslim voters.
Jasper, who some bookmakers had made second favourite, said Respect would remain in Croydon despite the result.
He told the Advertiser: "I never thought I was in with a chance. We didn't have a lot of time and the Malcolm Wicks effect was enormous.
"But we are here to stay. I am going to be a primary force in the Croydon political landscape. Today is only the beginning. We will be standing people in the local and general elections to be sure.
"We will be taking on the issues in the community and making a big noise about them.
"Today's result is a massive anti-Tory vote by any stretch of the imagination. Also, the Liberal Democrats have virtually evaporated. They are no longer a serious and credible force in British Politcs."
Despite the loss of her deposit, and the low turnout, Marisha Ray said the by-election had "shown democracy was alive and kicking" in Croydon North.
"The reception we had on the doorstep was very good," she added. "People were welcoming. However, in such a short campaign there was only so many voters the candidates could reach.
"A lot of people did not know about the by-election. I asked on person who they were going to vote for and they said Malcolm Wicks."
McKenzie said UKIP's decent showing was an indication that voters had become disillusioned with the European Union.
The former boxer sparked national outrage when he told the Advertiser that same-sex adoption was "unhealthy". McKenzie believes his comments had been "absolutely vindicated".
"I have always relied on the good will of the British public and they have delivered once again," he said.
"I think a lot of people agreed with my viewpoint, even if some of the national press went hard on it.
"I'm not some kind of gay-basher. I have a lot of sympathy for people who are gay. They have fought long and hard for their rights. So I think it's wrong for some of the media to label me a bigot. I feel absolutely vindicated because sensible people have seen through that."
Another candidate who took something positive from the result was the Green Party's Shasha Khan, who secured 855 votes (3.5%) and finished above Respect.
The full list of results was as follows: Steve Reed, Labour (15,898); Andy Stranack, Conservative (4,137); Winston McKenzie, UKIP (1,400); Marisha Ray, Liberal Democrat (860); Shasha Khan, Green (855); Lee Jasper, Respect (707); Stephen Hammond, Christian Peoples (192); Richard Edmonds, National Front (161); Ben Stevenson, Communist (199); John Cartwright, Official Monster Raving Loony Party (110); Simon Lane, Nine Eleven was an Inside Job (66) and Robin Smith, of the Young People's Party (63).
The count was held at Archbishop Lanfranc School, in Mitcham Road, Croydon, with the results announced at approximately 1.45am this morning (Friday).

Steve Reed retains Croydon North for Labour as

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