RE-ELECTED MP Kit Malthouse has his sights set on a “new golden age for Andover” after retaining his North West Hampshire seat by an overwhelming majority.

The Conservative candidate received 36,591 votes – almost exactly the same amount as in 2017 but a figure that extends his majority by more than 3,500 votes.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats made major gains with Luigi Gregori declaring he is “deliriously happy” to have emerged as the constituency’s “major challenger” to the Conservatives.

Labour’s Liz Bell polled third ahead of Lance Mitchell, of the Green Party, but all four candidates spoke of positive campaigns.

After a day of going head to head at the polls, by the time candidates arrived at John Hanson Community school for the count for North West Hampshire the atmosphere was contrastingly cordial.

Early in the evening, Mr Mitchell, of the Greens, was spotted sharing kind words with Conservative borough councillor Phil Lashbrook.

“He’s a good guy,” said Cllr Lashbrook, “lots of respect for him.”

And the Green party candidate also spoke of his admiration for rival candidate Ms Bell, noting that the pair were “very much aligned on this idea of collaborative politics”.

Mr Malthouse, the final candidate to arrive, echoed those sentiments by praising his rivals for a “good, clean campaign” which was “refreshing” in its lack of personal attacks.

But as the clock edged past 4am, it was the Conservative candidate who stood ahead of the pack – considerably ahead, in fact, as he increased his 2017 majority from 22,679 votes to 26,308.

After the results were announced, Mr Malthouse told the Advertiser: “It’s great for the third time in five years to get such a resounding vote of confidence. A little bit daunting, truth be told, but I’ll do my best to live up to their faith.”

Pointing to his biggest priorities upon re-election, he said: “Probably the hospital. I said I want to set up a hospital task force and we’ve got to get that going.

“We’ve got to make sure the hospital expands and is invested in and after that is probably the redevelopment of the town centre.”

In particular he drew attention to the town’s 'masterplan', adding: “I think it could be a whole new golden age for Andover.”

Although the Conservatives were the winners of the night, the Lib Dems had progress of their own to celebrate.

Mr Gregori, a former town councillor standing for Parliament for the first time, polled 10,283 votes. It marked an 80 per cent increase on the party’s 2017 yield and enough to make the Lib Dems the second most popular party in the constituency.

Speaking after the results were revealed he said: “I’m deliriously happy we significantly increased our vote share and number of votes and have now emerged as the major challenger to the Conservatives in North West Hampshire.”

Labour, meanwhile, were the only party to see a loss in voters.

Ms Bell received 9,327 nominations, a decline of around a third on 2017’s tally of 13,792. But she nonetheless she regarded the campaign – which was, like Mr Gregori, her first forage into national politics – as a ‘really enjoyable’ experience.

“I’ve really enjoyed talking to the voters,” she said before the results came in.

“It’s been a very civilised campaign. Nobody’s been rude to me, nobody’s threatened me, and considering what you hear about politics these days I think that’s really nice.”

Mr Mitchell, of the Greens, also spoke favourably of the campaign as a whole.

Talking to the Advertiser earlier in the evening he said: “From the support we’ve been hearing it’s a stronger vote than ever before in this area.

“This is a launchpad. We now have to build the rocket and find the astronaut, and find the means for doing much better in the future.”

The Greens would eventually amass just shy of five per cent of votes in the constituency, meaning the party will not be repaid its £500 deposit. But the 2,717 votes that were cast for the Greens was more than twice the amount they received in 2017.

After the results were announced Mr Mitchell added: “I’m disappointed that we didn’t make the five per cent because, however I still do think we’ve had successes.

“We got the highest number of votes we have ever had in this constituency, so we have a launch platform to build on for the next five years.”