AFTER a mammoth 11 hours of vote counting at Dudley Concert Hall, the Labour party clung to victory in a close two horse race.

Ian Austin kept Dudley North red and remained the only Labour candidate in the Dudley Borough after his fellow MPs lost their seats to the Tories in Dudley South, Stourbridge and Halesowen and Rowley Regis constituencies.

Polling 14,923 votes (39 per cent) from residents, Mr Austin took victory over Conservative’s Graeme Brown with a slashed majority of just 649, compared to his previously comfortable 5,432 majority, as Mr Brown notched up 14,274 votes (37 per cent).

Mike Beckett for the Liberal Democrats won 4,066 votes (10 per cent), UKIP candidate Malcolm Davis notched up 3,267 (eight per cent), Ken Griffiths for the BNP polled 1,899 votes (five per cent) while National Front candidate Kevin Inman received 173 votes (0 per cent).

The declaration of votes was finally announced around 4pm this afternoon, after a recount was called for 2pm.

It was around 4am when problems started surfacing, when Mr Brown began questioning the results, claiming 2,000 Tory votes were missing.

During a frantic search of all the slips, bundles of ballot papers were found to be placed in the wrong trays, leading to yet more counting by election officers.

But at 7am, following much heated deliberations between the nervous candidates and the returning officer, a call for another recount was made after it was thought there was a difference of just 400 votes between the two parties.

But following the afternoon recount, Mr Austin was still found to be in the lead, with a bigger majority than first thought, and the Conservatives conceded defeat.

Ian Austin, who admitted it was a close call, said he was delighted to have won.

He said: “I love this place. It is a great place and I am going to fight for it. I live here and my number one priority has been and will always be the work we can do in Dudley and the difference we can make locally.

He added: “The work we do in Dudley is great and I want to carry on promoting education and skills as priority, as well as bringing new investment in the town centre and the area.”

A gracious Graeme Brown praised Mr Austin for fighting “a very hard, decent and fair” campaign.

Mr Brown, who increased the Tory majority from 31.1 per cent to 37 per cent, said he was honoured to receive so many votes from Dudley North residents.

He said: “I am disappointed we didn’t quite get over the finish line, but I got over 14,000 votes from Dudley North residents, which is a great honour and was 3,000 more than four years ago.

“But we always thought it would be close, Ian fought a very tough campaign and he is a very popular MP.

“The Conservative’s won seats in Stourbridge, Dudley South and Halesowen and I am happy we got close here.”

However UKIP’s Malcolm Davis was left deflated by his fourth place position, announcing “I always seem to be called upon but in the eleventh hour always seem to be let down by residents.”

The turnout in Dudley North was up on 2005's 60.2 per cent to 63.7 per cent this time round - with a total of 38,743 residents casting their votes.