EU Referendum: Preston says Leave
Preston faces the new day as a city which has turned its back on Europe.
Some 53.2% of voters cast a Leave vote in the EU referendum and 46.5% wanted to Remain in the European Union, There were 49 spoilt ballot papers.
For those watching the count in the Guild Hall - a venue more used to hosting stars from the entertainment world - it was a time of mixed emotions as the count result was announced at around 4am with 34,518 votes for Leave and 30,227 for Remain with 49 spoilt ballot papers.
A delighted John Wilson, group leader for the three Leave campaigns in Preston - Leave EU.Grassroots Out and Vote Leave. said: “I feel ecstatic. We have worked hard in the Preston area,and South Ribble and Broughton and Garstang. We’ve delivered over 35,999 leaflets,hit the doorstep and talked to a lot of people. We’re not surprised we’ve won in Preston...Preston has sent out a message to the rest of the U.K. that we are going to win this.”
He added: “The team has worked really hard. UKIP has worked tremendously hard with everyone.”
But the Labour supporter had harsh words for the way he had been treated by Labour colleagues and said: “People sent me pictures of the Klu Klux Clan.“
Meanwhile the city’s Labour MP Mark Hendrick attacked the way Leave supporters had campaigned.
The former Euro MP stayed for most of the count, but left before the final result was announced. He had been adamant that Preston and the UK would benefit from remaining in the European Union and claimed as he watched the count: “For some it’s an opportunity to kick the Government rather than necessarily voting on the EU issue itself as the Government wanted us to remain.”
Mr Hendrick acknowledged some saw Europe as a problem, but argued there were big opportunities in remaining. He continued: “Obviously my view is it’s a solution to a lot of problems because we cooperate on so many issues...., particularly trade and the single market, things like food quality and consumer law.”
He continued: “I do think the campaign towards the end has been very emotive, very raucous and very poisonous. It’s not really been a good example of British democracy. It’s been a lot of name calling and vitriol..some of the opinions I would describe as xenophobic and some I would go so far as to say bordered on racism. The immigration debate has been an absolute disgrace.”
Preston Rural North councillor and Leave campaigner Stephen Thompson said: “Obviously David Cameron has given the public the opportunity to have this vote - credit for allowing it to take place.”
He said there had been a strong Leave campaign team in Preston: ”People weighed up the arguments and went with the one they found more convincing.”
James Barker, the UKIP Chairman for Preston North, Ribble Valley and Wyre declared: ”I think Preston has been indicative of all the wider areas in the north west and north west and midlands,”
With a side swipe at opponents he declared a heavily financed campaign could not detract from the will of the people.
The Preston results came in half an hour later than expected and Returning Officer Lorraine Norris, Preston Council’s Chief Executive, said the delay in announcing the results was due to “a one vote variance” .
Afterwards she explained the lost vote was found at the end of the count: “We had a one vote variance we needed to satisfy the Regional Counting Officer on.”
Nevertheless she praised her 78 strong counting team saying: “I think they did a great job.”
There was also praise for the teams manning Preston’s 102 polling stations and town hall staff.
Unlike an election night there were no big crowds, but a steady calm, as votes were counted and then the counters were given permission to leave ... and the results announcement followed.
For something so major the Referendum counts are curiously low key events. But events where every vote really did count.