Labour shaken but Tories real losers
• Birmingham Hodge Hill - Labour keeps seat but majority down to 460 from 11,600
• Leicester South - Labour lose seat to Liberal Democrats
"Lord Butler gave his view on the war in Iraq. Today, the people of Leicester South have given their view," the new MP said. "Their message is that the Prime Minister has abused and lost their trust. He should apologise and apologise now." - Parmjit Singh Gill, newly elected Liberal Democrat MP for Leicester South
Story in full TONY Blair emerged bloodied but unbowed from last night’s crucial Midlands by-elections, as Labour lost one safe seat to the Liberal Democrats, held another and saw the Conservatives sink to third in both.
In the first test of public opinion since the Butler Report laid waste to the Prime Minister’s case for war in Iraq, the Liberal Democrats took Leicester South, overturning Labour’s 13,000 majority in 2001 to win by 1,654 votes.
The Lib-Dems took 10,274 votes, Labour got 8,620 and the Conservatives 5,796.
In Birmingham Hodge Hill, the Lib-Dems slashed Labour’s 11,000 majority to 460. Labour took 7,451 votes, the Lib-Dems got 6,991, and the Conservatives 3,543. Respect, the antiwar fringe group, took 1,200 votes, possibly costing the Lib-Dems victory.
In both seats, the Lib-Dems came from third place, passing the Conservatives who were second in both in 2001.
Parmjit Singh Gill was elected the Liberal Democrat MP for Leicester South with a swing from Labour of more than 20 per cent of the vote.
"Lord Butler gave his view on the war in Iraq. Today, the people of Leicester South have given their view," the new MP said. "Their message is that the Prime Minister has abused and lost their trust. He should apologise and apologise now."
Liam Byrne, the newly elected Labour MP for Hodge Hill, insisted the party retained public support.
"People in this country still know that it is only Labour that can be trusted," he said "This is an excellent result for Labour and a truly awful result for the Conservatives."
Turnout in Birmingham was estimated at 36 per cent. In Leicester it was 42 per cent.
Despite the collapse of the Labour vote in both seats, supporters of the Prime Minister took solace from last night’s results.
Losing both seats would have bolstered those inside the Labour Party, especially supporters of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, who hope the Prime Minister can be ousted before the next election. Most Labour MPs saw the loss of one seat as a blow for Mr Blair, but not a fatal one.
And losing to the Lib-Dems, acknowledged masters of the art of winning by-elections, is a far less serious blow than losing to the Conservatives.
The Conservatives had earlier insisted they were "very optimistic" about both seats, but those words concealed a gnawing worry.
Michael Howard, the Tory leader, has been desperate for a tangible political victory, and taking a seat from Labour in a by-election would have been a cherished prize: the last time the Tories took a seat from another party in a by-election was 1982.
Some Conservatives worry that, although Mr Howard has galvanised the Tories in parliament and ended its self-destructive in-fighting, his successes at Westminster have not yet been translated into Conservative gains among ordinary voters.
The poor showing by the Tories was comforting Labour MPs last night, and ministers were maliciously speculating that the by-elections could bring about a full-blown leadership crisis for Mr Howard.
"I cannot think of a worse result for the Conservatives," said John Reid, the Health Secretary.
"It’s not a great result," said Liam Fox, the Tory Party chairman. "We will do better in better seats."
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Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
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Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
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Wind direction: North east