WEST Dorset Conservative Oliver Letwin fought off what was expected to be a strong Liberal Democrat challenge with an increased majority.

Mr Letwin received 27,287 votes, improving his majority from 2,461 in 2005 to 3,923.

Liberal Democrat candidate Sue Farrant received 23,364 out of a total of 57,334 votes cast as she failed to oust Letwin who has held the seat for the past 13 years.

A total of 107 ballot boxes started arriving for the count at Thomas Hardye Leisure Centre at around 10.15pm, with Returning Officer David Clarke reporting no major problems at polling stations.

The turnout was down slightly from the 2005 general election – at 74.7 per cent compared with 76.4 per cent five years ago.

Mr Letwin said his track record as MP for West Dorset was vital to his electoral success.

He said: “On the doorstep the biggest issue regardless of party politics was that most of the electorate realised over 13 years I have been a competent constituency MP.”

After the result came in at around 2.20am Mr Letwin praised all those who had supported him in his campaign and said it would be premature to predict whether his success would be replicated nationally.

He said: “It is too early to tell what the night will bring but I very much hope we will be able to wake up tomorrow morning to a change of Government that this country desperately needs.”

Mrs Farrant congratulated her rival and vowed to fight on for the Liberal Democrat cause, particularly in relation to West Dorset Dis-trict Council’s proposed new offices in Charles Street.

She said: “I am to lose but we fought a successful campaign.

“I am delighted with how many volunteers have come forward in this campaign so we have come out stronger than we went into it and the work continues.

“We will continue with our campaign to prevent West Dorset District Council’s spending on new council offices here in Dorchester.”

Labour candidate Steve Bick polled 3,815 votes – a slight decrease in the party share – while UKIP’s Oliver Chisholm received 2,196 votes and Susan Greene from the Green Party 675.

Dr Bick said he feared he could be the victim of Labour supporters tactically casting their votes for the Lib Dems in a bid to defeat the Tories.