BANBURY’s new MP paid a heartfelt tribute to her predecessor Sir Tony Baldry yesterday as she took the reins and increased his sizeable majority.

Conservative Victoria Prentis won 30,749 votes, a 53 per cent share of the vote and a majority of 18,395.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail after the result was announced, the former government lawyer said she had “big shoes to fill” after Sir Tony’s departure.

Mrs Prentis, 43, who was head of justice and security at the Treasury Solicitors’ Department, said: “Sir Tony has been the most fantastic MP for the last 32 years and I am going to have a hard act to follow.

“I never expected to increase his majority. It is extraordinary and a testament to the strong Conservative council we have [in Cherwell] and the fact we have benefitted locally from the national economic boom.

“I feel great. The local result is great but the national result is also fantastic.”

The mother-of-two – whose first congratulatory phone calls were from her daughters and 92-year-old grandmother – said she would spend this weekend writing “thank you letters” and baking cakes for an annual celebration in her home village of Somerton.

On Monday she will be due in the House of Commons for induction activities.

But Westminster and the lawmaking that takes place there will be less alien to her than to many other new MPs.

Before her selection as Conservative candidate was announced in November, she was head of justice and security at the Treasury Solicitors’ Department.

She was warmly endorsed by Sir Tony, who said she would make an “outstanding MP”.

He was first elected in 1983 to the Banbury constituency seat, which has been controlled by a string of Conservative MPs since 1922, In 2010, Sir Tony had a majority of 18,227 votes, but Mrs Prentis managed to increase that marginally by 168 votes.

Turnout in the election overall was 65.84 per cent, an increase of about one percentage point on 2010.

Labour candidate Sean Woodcock came second with 12,354 votes (21.2 per cent), followed by UKIP candidate Dickie Bird with 8,050 (13.9 per cent), Liberal Democrat candidate John Howson with 3,440 (5.9 per cent), Green candidate Ian Middleton with 2,686 (4.6 per cent) and National Health Action Party candidate Roseanne Edwards with 729 (1.3 per cent).

At the count, in the Spiceball Leisure Centre, delighted Conservative activists cheered as the result was announced shortly before 7.30am.

Despite Banbury’s reputation as a safe seat for the Conservatives, campaigners said they did not take for granted how much of Sir Tony’s majority Mrs Prentis would carry over.

Her election agent Chris Rowlands, said: “We are absolutely delighted.”