CONSERVATIVE Mark Francois retained his seat but saw his vast majority cut somewhat as UKIP took second.

Mr Francois, who won in 2010 with the second largest Tory majority, polled 29,088 votes with John Hayter collecting 11,858 for Ukip, slashing the Conservative majority from 22,338 to 17,226.

Labour's John Hough polled 6,705 with all of the remaining candidates, independent Linda Kendall, Liberal Democrat Mike Pitt and the Green's Sarah Yapp failing to keep hold of their deposit with less than five per cent of the vote.

On a successful night for the Tories in south Essex Mr Francois paid tribute to the party and his support team during his victory speech.

He said: "My campaign team have worked incredibly hard not just for the last six weeks, but in many ways since Christmas.

"As well as fighting in this constituency they have provided mutual aid to Castle Point, where I was delighted to see Rebecca Harris re-elected, and also to Thurrock, where I was also delighted to see Jackie Doyle-Price re-elected.

"The electorate of Rayleigh and Wickford have continued to show confidence in me to continue to serve them as their member of Parliament, I hope, for the next five years."

Mark Francois (C) 29,088

John Hayter (Ukip) 11,858

David Hough (Lab) 6,705

Linda Kendall (Ind) 2,418

Mike Pitt (Lib Dem) 1,622

Sarah Yapp (Gn) 1,529