Morley’s new MP has promised to be a champion of the community after being elected last week.
Conservative Andrea Jenkyns took the seat from Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls after a hotly contested duel which saw her squeeze past the finishing line with a majority of 422. The result came as a shock to many national observers and political commentators, despite the overall swing from Labour to the Tories.
However, Ms Jenkyns, 40, said that the result was a culmination of two years’ worth of hard work since she had been selected as the Tory candidate.
Speaking to the Observer before her first session in Parliament, she said: “I had a strategy and I realised that being a community champion was the only way I was going to win this seat,” she said. “And that’s what I wanted to be.”
“I’ve spent two years and two months getting to know local people and building up a support network.
“I knew that attacking the opposition wasn’t the way I was going to win it, because I think Punch and Judy politics really puts people off.”
Election night was a long and gruelling experience for all the candidates, with a recount prompting the final result to be declared at around 8am on Friday.
And the tension was too much for some, including Ms Jenkyns’ mother Valerie, who fainted moments before Andrea’s victory was confirmed.
“My mum trapped her hand in one of the chairs, fell off and fainted,” the new MP explained. “We got an ice pack on it and she’s fine now.
Following the result and catching up on some much-needed sleep Ms Jenkyns was greeted by a number of constituents and well wishers in the town.
“In the morning, after I’d done all my interviews, I walked down the high street in Morley and I was so moved by the number of people who walked up to me and shook my hand.
“And it’s made me determined that I won’t let them down. I will work my socks off for Morley. I had a number of Labour people come to me in my office before the election and they gave me their support and I’m so grateful for that because I know how much of a big thing it is to switch your allegiance. And I want to prove to them that was the right decision.
“It’s the biggest achievement of my life, this is the ultimate for me.”
Ms Jenkyns says she plans to make her constituency office a “community hub” available to local groups to use and wants the heritage cente to be combined with a tourist information office.