Caroline Lucas won a remarkable victory in Brighton Pavilion constituency this morning, making history by becoming the country's first Green Party MP.
She took 31 per cent of the popular vote in a close-fought election battle - finishing ahead of Labour, Tories and the Liberal Democrats.
Ms Lucas, who is leader of the Green Party in England and Wales, and a Euro MP, had been widely predicted to win on the south coast, by pollsters and bookmakers alike. But her campaign teams were in no mood for complacency, and the late declaration of the result had made many supporters nervous.
"Thank you so much for putting the politics of hope above the politics of fear," she told the voters in her seaside constituency. "I pledge that I will do my very best to do you proud."
"For once the word historic fits the bill... A hung parliament is interesting, both in terms of perhaps increasing our chances of getting a fairer electoral system, so that people's voices are properly heard. But also of course in giving the Greens that bit more influence. So, I think these are pretty exciting days ahead," she told BBC News.
The new Green MP has won wide support locally and nationally. Yesterday, the award-winning film maker, Ken Loach, gave Ms Lucas his support.
Loach - director of such films as 'Land and Freedom', and the Palme D'Or winning 'The Wind That Shakes The Barley' - said he believed that the difference between the three main parties was now so slim that "only the Greens offer a sustainable and equitable solution to the current economic crisis."
The film maker, whose latest film 'Looking for Eric' starred the former Manchester United striker, Eric Cantona, alongside Loach's customary cast of unknown actors, said: "The three major parties asking for our votes on May 6 present programmes with differences of degree rather than of principle. They all will seek to make the workers pay for the crisis. Caroline Lucas represents a real alternative and calls for a necessary transformation of society."
Responding, Ms Lucas declared: "I thank Ken Loach for his kind words of support. As a great admirer of his work I know that on many levels we share the same desire for a fairer, more balanced society. The kind of society that the Labour Party have long since abandoned and the other parties simply do not offer."
Loach's backing came on the same day as senior members of Sussex trades unions, including Unison, Unite, GMB and NUJ publicly declared their support for Lucas.
Expressing their disappointment after 13 years of Labour government, they declared: "We believe that the election of Caroline Lucas will do more for working people and trade unionists than a Labour MP whipped into line to keep Brown in office, or who pretends a social conscience while in opposition."
The Greens' deputy leader, Adrian Ramsay, contesting the party’s number two target seat of Norwich South, was beaten into fourth place – despite doubling the party's vote compared with the last election.
A spokesperson for the local party said: “Obviously this is a setback, but looking at the bigger picture, Norwich Green Party is still very much in the ascendant.
“Our vote this year in Norwich South was eight per cent up on our 2005 vote. In 2011 the city of Norwich will have a brand new unitary authority, and the Green Party is well placed to become the ruling party – which will be a first for the Greens in the UK.”
The Greens point out that a repeat of the 2009 county election results – where they leapt from two seats to seven – would result in the them becoming the largest party on the new council.
The unitary authority will have 39 seats. The Greens already hold 13 city and seven county council seats in Norwich.
Caroline Lucas is the first Green Party MP in Britain, but Cynog Glyndwr Dafis of Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) was an MP for Ceredigion from 1992 until 2000, having been supported by a coalition involving Green party activists.
In 2000, he resigned to devote more time as a member of the National Assembly for Wales, to which he was elected in 1999.