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Long makes it to Westminster as civils candidates experience mixed fortunes

Engineering and construction professionals were this morning celebrating and commiserating after a mixed bag of results in the General Election.

Naomi Long has become the first civil engineer with construction industry experience to be elected to Parliament in five years after winning the Belfast East seat in last week’s General Election.

Standing as Alliance Party deputy leader, Long took the Belfast East seat from Northern Ireland first minister and Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson.

Long worked for Northern Ireland consultant Mulholland & Doherty, specialising in the water sector, for 10 years before getting involved in politics. She is the daughter-in-law of ICE past president professor Adrian Long.

Civil engineering had previously been represented in parliament by Lawrie Quinn, but he lost his Scarborough & Whitby seat in 2005.

Since then the only MP with civil engineering credentials has been the Scottish National Party’s Angus MacNeil who won the Western Isles seat in 2005. He studied civil engineering but took up a career in journalism.

A media sensation

Long has become a media sensation in Northern Ireland after ousting Robinson. Robinson had held the seat for 31 years and it should have been safe as the area is a Unionist stronghold. However, he has had a troubled year after revelations about the financial affairs and private life of his wife, Iris Robinson.

Long took 37.2% of the vote against Robinson’s 32.8%. ICE director general Tom Foulkes said it was great news that civil engineering was again represented in the Commons.

“It is always good to see a civil engineer get a seat in Parliament, but we are especially pleased to see the election of a civil engineer from such a strong and respected engineering family.

“Naomi has a solid understanding of the key issues affecting civil engineering and infrastructure and she is exactly the sort of individual needed to inform national and regional politics.”

Also celebrating this week will be Conservative candidate Esther McVey who has held directorships at her family’s Liverpool based construction firm JG McVey & Co.

She helped the Tories win the Wirral West seat - a constituency widely regarded as the most affluent among those on the Wirral Peninsular. Her recent main interest has been as managing director of public relations firm Making It (UK).

Unsuccessful

However, other civil engineering and construction candidates failed to win their seats. Conservative candidate and Concrete Centre regional engineer Ian Gibb lost his battle for Ealing North with just 30.9% of the vote against Labour’s 50.4%.

Structural engineer Robin Millar failed to make any real headway on the Tories’ 2005 vote share of 16.4% and only managed third place with 16.9% in Arfon behind Plaid Cymru on 36% and Labour with 30.4%.

Civil engineer and UK Independence Party candidate David Dewes made even less of an impression in Pudsey taking only 2.5% of the vote, leaving him in fifth place, behind the Conservative winner and the British National Party candidate.

Former British Rail project manager Michael Edwards had hoped to claim Derbyshire South for Labour, where sitting Labour MP Mark Todd had stood down, but he lost the party’s seat to Conservative candidate Heather Wheeler’s healthy 45.5% share of the vote and only managed to clock up 31.4% of the vote share.

Meanwhile, backers of the £15.9bn Crossrail scheme will not have a champion MP after community relations manager and Reading Borough Council member Gareth Epps came a distant second in Reading East. He managed just 27.3% of the vote against winning Tory candidate Rob Wilson’s 42.6%.

SLR Consulting geological consultant and Conservative candidate for Ellesmere Port and Neston Stuart Penketh also lost out, harnessing just 34.9% of the vote against Labour’s 44.6%.

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