|- 356 seats (-45) for 35.2% of the vote|
- 197 seats (+35) for 32.3% of the vote
- 62 seats (+8) for 22.0% of the vote
- 30 seats (+2) for 10.4% of the vote
So, Labour has a majority of 67. This is certainly large enough to hold power. Thatcher started out in 1979 with a majority of only 44, and look how much damage she managed to cause! The system has again been shown to be grossly unfair. For each 1% of the vote gained, Labour received ten seats, the Tories six seats and the Lib-Dems just under 3 seats. If the number of seats were proportionate to votes, the results would have been as follows;
|- 227 (129 less seats, and no majority)|
- 207 (10 more seats)
- 142 (80 more seats)
- 69 seats (39 more seats)
So, what do the results mean for U.K politics?
Blair claims that he understands the electorate´s concerns and that he has learned his lesson. However, Blair´s buddies have already begun their offensive against labour backbenchers saying that they will spoil Labour´s historic third term if they use every piece of contentious legislation as a chance to rebel (i.e. stand up for their principles).
Many Labour MP´s and activists are already calling for Blair to hand over power to Brown, among them Robin Cook and Frank Dobson) while one labour MP (Helen Clark) has already defected to the Tories stating "During my eight years in parliament, I have become increasingly frustrated with the conduct of your Labour government... I was angry at the bullying tactics, sometimes physical, employed by government whips and that I was never made to feel that I had anything to offer." One has to wonder what she was doing in the Labour party in the first place if she is more comfortable with Tory policies and management techniques, but then she was described as one of "Blair´s babes", so she has probably always been a Tory at heart. However, this illustrates the problem well. Labour have lost ground on the left to the Lib-Dems and (to a lesser extent) on the right to the Tories.
It is quite clear that Labour would have done much worse if Gordon Brown had not been there to backup Blair. It is also clear that many Labour supporters did not vote at all because they could not bring themselves to vote for Blair, and yet Peter Hain (mind reader) bizarrely stated that "The idea that people suddenly want to have his head on a plate within hours of winning this historic third term of office and consigning the Tories to a terrible result and a third successive defeat - the idea that would be welcome by the public I just think is fantasy." Sorry, Peter, that´s exactly what many people want.
As Glenda Jackson MP noted, "The prime minister said on Friday that he had listened during the campaign and he now knew what the British people wanted. Every one of us who fought as a candidate in this election also got the opportunity to listen to the British people. And their message was clear. It´s not New Labour they want. It´s a new prime minister."
Unfortunately, it is all too clear that neither Blair nor those running the Labour Party have listened. Blair has brought the disgraced Blunkett back into his cabinet and signalled his intention to press ahead with ID cards bill, a points system for immigrants, more reform of the NHS and measures to reduce the numbers of people claiming incapacity benefit. Now, for the first time, Labour has more peers in the House of Lords than the Conservatives. They will hope this reduces the threat that unpopular legislation will be scuppered.
The real problem is that Blair & Co have always acted as though they could trample upon the beliefs of genuine labour supporters and they would just take it because they thought anything was better than another Tory Government. Up until now, he has been right. However, Labour admits that they underestimated the threat from the Lib-Dems, and the prospect of three party politics will be disconcerting. We could well see Labour becoming reliant on Tory support as Labour backbenchers vote according to conscience in defiance of the whip.
The Lib-Dems only managed to take one Tory scalp, but did well against Labour. Although they only took a few seats, they made substantial gains in many normally safe Labour areas. They will no doubt be worrying that their success was a short lived reaction to the war in Iraq, but the fact is that their stance on the environment, student fees and taxation, and their rejection of ID cards and terror legislation make them the only progressive alternative to Labour. If Blair keeps pushing draconian measures and Tory inspired Private Finance Initiatives, Labour could well be abandoned by its traditional support. The Lib-Dems don´t particularly want to be seen as a left wing party and so their lack of success against the Tories will worry them.
However, they now have a powerful position in the house, and a chance to encourage the electorate to see them as a genuine alternative to Labour and the Tories. Our democracy badly needs a strong opposition, and Labour has given away the moral high ground.
Although they gained thirty five seats, they did not manage to increase their share of the vote. Howard described the result as a "real advance towards our recovery", but has now signalled his intention to resign as leader. By playing on people´s racism they may have unwittingly aided the BNP, but Howard now states that he should have spent more energy on immigration in the final days of the election campaign. Some Tories claim that immigration issues could have gained them 10 extra seats in parliament! This is depressing, and probably true.
For progressive Conservatives, this was a bad result. They needed the party to win or be badly beaten so that they could begin a comprehensive re-think. Now the Tories have a bitter leadership contest to look forward to, and risk shifting further right in order to distinguish themselves from Labour. Their recent unity looks precarious. Already senior Conservative MPs have accused Howard of seeking to block David Davis from taking over by changing the rules. We can prepare for some dirty fighting as the leadership contest gets underway.