Lady Sylvia retains her seat and vows to keep independence stance
Lady Sylvia Hermon has vowed to retain her independence after she was re-elected with an enormous majority.
The former Ulster Unionist member said she had no interest in becoming involved with a Conservative Government, before it became clear that no help was required to form one.
"I am not interested in joining that lot," she said. "I am there to be independent."
The veteran MP since 2001 also ruled out suggestions she may stand down after this term, and revealed she has not ruled out standing for the Assembly.
Giving her acceptance speech in the early hours of yesterday, Lady Hermon singled out for praise Carl McClean, who had for a short time been the UUP candidate in North Down before stepping aside for her.
"Thank you very much for graciously bowing out and encouraging Ulster Unionists to support their once member of the Ulster Unionists," she said.
She also spoke of how much she had enjoyed canvassing and meeting the constituents - both human and animal.
"When we have the sunshine and the wonderful weather it was a joy to meet voters out in their gardens and I was delighted to talk about their plants," she said.
"It was wonderful to meet their dogs, cats and other animals, because some of them had turtles, which was really interesting."
Lady Hermon also paid tribute to her late husband, former RUC Chief Constable Sir John Hermon.
"I have been without Sir Jack now for almost seven years, which is a long time to be widowed, but I have had the great joy and pleasure of a great family around me and a great circle of friends, but it is my work that keeps me going, it is my joy and the pleasure that I have for serving the people of North Down," she said. "I haven't said I am quitting in five years' time, so those of you who are saying that it's my turn in five years' time, don't hold your breath waiting for me to bow out." Despite being clearly ahead from early in the count, Lady Hermon said she never believed it until the official figures were announced.
"I am thrilled and delighted because I am the worrier, this is my fourth general election but I still worry that the votes are going to go all over the place and I am not going to be returned to do the job I love," she said. "I love serving the people of North Down, it has been such a privilege and such an honour and I am so thrilled to be going back."
Lady Hermon's dominance came as a disappointment to DUP candidate Alex Easton, who was announced as a last-minute entry to the race despite the party usually standing aside for the independent.
He managed just over 8,000 votes, fewer than his colleague Peter Weir had received last time the DUP ran for Westminster here in 2005.
North Down represented another major surge for the Alliance Party with former mayor Andrew Muir attracting than 3,000-plus votes, significantly more than the 1,876 votes which Stephen Farry received at the 2010 general election.
Next candidate was Green Party leader Stephen Agnew with 1,958 votes, followed by Conservative candidate Mark Brotherston with 1,593 votes.
Ukip candidate Jonny Lavery won 1,482 votes, well ahead of the TUV's William Cudworth, who received 686 voted.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP performed very poorly, with the republican candidate Therese McCartney even being beaten by Glenn Donnelly of the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol Party.