CONSERVATIVE candidate Stephen Metcalfe has snatched back the Basildon South and Thurrock East seat from Angela Smith, a close aide to Gordon Brown, in a symbolic victory for the party.
Metcalfe leapfrogged his rival with a swing of 7.5 per cent towards the Tories, giving him 43.9 per cent of the vote to Smith’s 31 per cent.
Smith, who has held the seat for the past 12 years, also lost considerable ground to the Liberal Democrat candidate Geoff Williams, whose share of the vote rose to 13.4 per cent from 10.6 per cent in 2005.
The loss of Basildon South, a constituency which has seen its boundaries altered since the last election, came as a sharp blow for Smith, who appeared visibly upset as the results were read out. She has held positions as a minister in the department of communities and local government and private secretary to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The Conservatives had already pinned high hopes on Metcalfe, naming Basildon South as its 17th target seat.