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From across the Big Pond: UK election results

By Andy Walsh
web posted June 11, 2001

Prime Minister Tony Blair is greeted by supporters at Labor Party headquarters in London following his party's victory in the general election on June 8
Prime Minister Tony Blair is greeted by supporters at Labor Party headquarters in London following his party's victory in the general election on June 8

In a sense, it was the General Election that never happened. After four weeks of campaigning, the state of the main parties in the UK has hardly changed. Tony Blair is still Prime Minister with a huge majority in the House of Commons, the Conservatives have exactly the same number of MPs as they had before the election began and the Liberal Democrats show signs of further growth.

Labour has 413 seats (down 6), the Conservatives 164 seats (no loss or gain), the Liberal Democrats 47 seats (up 7) and other parties 10 seats (down 1). The share of the vote between the parties was similar to 1997 as well.

The one tarnish on an otherwise great night for Labour was the poor turnout of 58 per cent. It was the worst in a UK General Election since 1918.

So what does this victory mean?

Well, Labour will claim they now have a clear mandate to carry on with the policies that they have been following for the last four years. The size of the majority would also tend to suggest that they will win the next election too as it will take the biggest swing ever in UK politics for a Conservative election victory in five years time. It was also the first time that the Labour Party has won full term back-to-back elections. It was also the largest second term majority that any UK party has ever had.

Yet many commentators will point to the low turnout and suggest that it is far from a clear mandate. In analysis, only 1 in 4 people of electable age have actually voted for them. They have achieved a landslide victory but one that is tinged with caution from the electorate.

William Hague has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party. After four years of opposition, they have made no impression on Labour's majority. They were never going to win this election but were looking to make enormous gains at Labour's expense. They failed and failed dramatically and now they face a period of infighting while they choose a new leader. They have to seriously examine themselves and, maybe, reinvent the party as a whole. Right wing politics is at its lowest ebb in the UK.

Perhaps the real winners of this election have been the Liberal Democrats.

Their leader, Charles Kennedy, is a highly popular politician. They have also been the beneficiaries of some anti-conservative tactical voting but this is not to diminish their achievements. They have gained a further 7 seats and this is to be applauded. Their hope will be that if the Conservative Party falls apart, that they will make further gains. It is their hope to become the main party of opposition.

So, that's that for another five years. The ballot boxes are being tucked away, rosettes being placed into cupboards across the country and champagne bottles being emptied into recycling bins. It was not the greatest election in history and neither was it particularly exciting. Yet, for Tony Blair, he can now concentrate on running the country for the next few years while the Conservative Party must find out what went wrong.

Andy Walsh is a househusband and writer living in Cumbria in the UK. He writes novels, short stories, articles and poems some of which you can read at http://www.stbrodag.com © Andy Walsh

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