West Norfolk’s re-elected MPs declared themselves to be “humbled” by the responsibility after winning comfortable majorities in Thursday’s election.
Henry Bellingham secured a seventh term as North West Norfolk MP with a majority of just under 14,000 over Labour, despite a slight fall in his share of the vote.
And Elizabeth Truss, the environment secretary in the previous government, retained the South West Norfolk seat with a similarly comfortable margin over UKIP.
Ahead of the declarations, Mr Bellingham said the results, which had seen his party perform much better than polling experts had predicted, were “a political earthquake.”
In his acceptance speech, he added: “It is my duty to represent everyone, regardless of party politics.
“People in this constituency have put their trust in me again. I feel incredibly humbled, very honoured and I will do my absolute level best to live up to their expectations and to serve them.”
Ms Truss added: “I’m extremely honoured and humbled to be again elected as a Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk.
“The last five years has been very fulfilling. I think we’ve achieved a lot but there is more to do. I’ve got a very long to do list.”
Final confirmation of the results was delivered by Norfolk’s High Sheriff, Nicholas Pratt at around 8am on Friday following a marathon counting process at Lynnsport and just as the likelihood of a Tory Commons majority became clear.
Counting itself did not begin until 5.45am, after verification of the votes in more than 150 ballot boxes, some of which had to be delivered from more than 40 miles away, had been completed.
West Norfolk Council officials said the elections, which included borough and parish council polls as well as the two Parliamentary seats, were the largest they had ever undertaken.
But, well before the results were confirmed, many of the area’s defeated candidates were already starting to reflect on the outcome.
Labour’s Jo Rust, who finished second to Mr Bellingham in North West Norfolk, admitted the results did not reflect the reaction they had been getting on the doorstep, despite their recovery from a third place finish in 2010.
She said: “It’s a huge disappointment if Labour aren’t getting the level of success they deserve. The Labour party is a party for the millions not just the millionaires.
“When that’s not reflected in the mood of the nation I need to do some thinking and gain greater understanding of why that is.”
Liberal Democrat Hugh Lanham, who was not on the stage to hear he had come last of the five North West Norfolk candidates, admitted: “We’re paying the price for coalition.
“We knew we would, but it looks like we really are going to pay a high price for it.”
And UKIP’s Paul Smyth, who finished second to Ms Truss in South West Norfolk, added: “Everybody is trying to come to terms with how wrong it would appear the polls have been. We’ve been surprised at some of the responses we’ve seen.
“What we can’t say is why there appears to be a strong Conservative turnout, whether that’s fear of the SNP and the influence they could have.”
Following the declarations, the Green Party’s South West Norfolk candidate Sandra Walmsley reflected a wider national view for the smaller parties as she pleaded for electoral reform.
She said: “The sooner we have a voting system where we’re all equally represented, the better.”
Her North West Norfolk counterpart Michael de Whalley also called for residents to come together following the polls.
He said: “I’ve got to know all my fellow candidates and respect them, and if we work together as a community, we can do so much more.”
Elsewhere, a rare moment of Liberal Democrat celebration came in North Norfolk as former care minister Norman Lamb retained his seat with a majority of just under 4,000.
Yesterday, Mr Lamb confirmed his intention to stand for the party’s leadership following the resignation of Nick Clegg.
Meanwhile, John Hayes, who was made security minister in the new government, retained his South Holland and the Deepings constituency and George Freeman was returned in mid-Norfolk
The full Parliamentary results were as follows:
North West Norfolk: Henry Bellingham (Con) 24,727; Jo Rust (Lab) 10,779; Toby Coke (UKIP) 8,412; Michael de Whalley (Green) 1,780; Hugh Lanham (Lib Dem) 1,673. Turnout: 65.6%
South West Norfolk: Elizabeth Truss (Con) 25,515; Paul Smyth (UKIP) 11,654; Peter Smith (Lab) 8,649; Rupert Moss-Eccardt (Lib Dem) 2,217; Sandra Walmsley (Green) 2,075. Turnout: 65.3%.
North Norfolk: Norman Lamb (Lib Dem) 19,699; Ann Steward (Con) 15,256; Michael Baker (UKIP) 8,328; Denise Burke (Lab) 5,043; Mike Macartney-Filgate (Green) 1,488. Turnout: 71.7%.
Mid Norfolk: George Freeman (Con) 27,206; Anna Coke (UKIP) 9,930; Harry Clarke (Lab) 9,585; Paul Speed (Lib Dem) 3,300; Simeon Jackson (Green) 2,191. Turnout 67.8%
South Holland and the Deepings: John Hayes (Con) 29,303; David Parsons (UKIP) 10,736; Matthew Mahabadi (Lab) 6,122; Daniel Wilshire (Green) 1,580; George Smid (Lib Dem) 1,466. Turnout: 63.9%