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South Holland and the Deepings MP Sir John Hayes reflects on what caused the Conservative Party’s historic 2024 General Election defeat

Conservative Sir John Hayes has once again been elected to represent South Holland and the Deepings but is calling on his party to re-affirm its ‘competency’ following its worst ever defeat at the ballot box.

Sir John is one of the 121 Tory MPs to be taking up their seats in Parliament this week but this victory will be bitter-sweet as his majority was slashed from 30,838 to just 6,856 votes with the Reform candidate Matthew Swainson coming second — and the party was kicked out of power as part of a Labour landslide.

In the lowest turn-out since the South Holland and the Deepings seat was created in 1997 - when Sir John was first elected - just 58.70% of the 78,473-strong electorate came out to cast their votes in the Thursday’s General Election.

Newly elected Sir John Hayes celebrates with his family and other members of the Conservative Party PHOTO: SUPPLIED BY JAN WHITBOURN
Newly elected Sir John Hayes celebrates with his family and other members of the Conservative Party PHOTO: SUPPLIED BY JAN WHITBOURN

As the Conservatives seek their sixth leader in 14 years, Sir John wants to see a return to traditional Conservative policies.

Speaking in the days after the election Sir John said: “What we now need to do is re-affirm our competency. People want government to be competent and expect a government to believe what it says and say what it believes.”

Sir John said he was ‘disappointed’ with the electoral results but pointed out that they were better than the polls had predicted.

He said: “The party is going through the process and I was there in 97 when (Tony) Blair got an even bigger majority than (Sir Keir) Starmer.

“We were in opposition until 2010 we lost successive elections, I know what opposition looks like.

“So the party have to go through defeat and re-group. Things have their day and come to pass.

“People voted Conservative in 2019 with a strong expectation of what the government does. We had a tsunami of difficult things with the pandemic, war in Europe and crisis in the middle east. “

Sir John said he agreed that infighting within the Conservative party had played in a part in its loss. But he added that one of things he had mentioned above was ‘tangibily responsible for the downfall of Boris Johnson’.

He said: “There were self inflicted wounds too. Some of the things that characterised that last four-and-a-half years were beyond the government’s control.

Sir John said the immigration policy was ‘hopeless’, the ‘trans stuff had come too late’ and taxation was another issue.

He said: “I felt that the government was insufficiently Conservative and frustrated the will of people in 2019.

“I would call for more robust and proudly Conservative government.”

Sir John would not be drawn on who would be getting his vote in the leadership contest after former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced his intention to stand down. He said it was too early to say as the dynamics have changed since the election.

But looking to the future, Sir John said that he wanted to do more for disadvantaged people

He said: “Another big thing is welfare reform we have got six million people on out of work benefits. One million of those would find it very difficult to work as they are profoundly disabled while one million have caring responsibilities and four million people are out of work. They could be working and whether that is because they don’t have the skills or need more support to get into work. We can’t import labour with four million people on out of work benefits.”

In discussing the state of public services in Lincolnshire said that funding had played its part as the rurality of the county was not recognised in the formulas used to allocate money.

He said: “That had its roots in Labour but we should have sorted that out.”

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