Richard North, 05/05/2006  


With all the results now in, Conservatives have gained 316 seats, now holding 1830, Labour are down 319 to 1439 and the Lib-Dims have gained two bringing them to 909. Labour lost control of 19 councils including some key boroughs in London and the Tories gained 11, including Hammersmith and Fulham, which they have not held since 1968. The Lib-Dims gained one.

The weakness in the Tory result is that there is no "breakthrough" in northern cities. They failed to win any seats in Manchester, Liverpool or Newcastle. In Bradford, Labour actually increased its number of seats from 30 to 36, at the expense of the Tories who went down from 35 to 33, making Labour the largest party.

If the polls had been held nationwide, the Tories would have gained 40 percent of the vote, Lib-Dims 27 and Labour 26 percent. Turnout is estimated at 36 percent - down three points from 2004.

Despite this, we have had Francis Maude leering from the TV, crowing that people had made a "positive statement" about "modern compassionate Conservatism". From a man who is just about as compassionate as a snake looking at its next meal. The Boy King, himself, is feeling "very positive", saying his party had now broadened its appeal and was "on its way back".

The Lib-Dims have done poorly, gaining hardly any seats. Ming has invented a new word for failure: "consolidation" - although his Party has knocked the Tories off their perch in Harrogate. They are, however, making much of having moved to second position in their share of the vote - by one percent.

BNP have got 11 seats (out of a possible 13) in Barking. They say it's a revolt against the entire liberal political establishment. They're probably right. Dewsbury in Kirklees looks interesting. BNP gain two, bringing their local representation to three. After some losses, and total gains of 27, they now hold 53 seats in England.

Respect gained 11 seats in Tower Hamlets bringing their overall total as a party to to 13. UKIP gained only one councillor, at Hartlepool, despite predicting nationwide gains of 20. The Greens did get 20 seats, bringing their total to 29.

Chris Davies, leader of the Lib-Dim MEP group has been forced to resign over offensive remarks in an e-mail to a Jewish constituent. And they have the nerve to condemn the BNP for being "extreme"?

Meanwhile, the election results have been somewhat eclipsed by Blair's "biggest ever" reshuffle. Clarke is toast! Despite being offered other jobs, he has been sacked and has left the government to return to the back benches. He is replaced by John Reid - one to watch as a possible heir to the Blair throne. Des Browne takes over Defence.

Jack Straw goes, demoted to Leader of the House. He is replaced by Margaret Beckett - promoted after her catastrophic failure on single farm payments. Hoon is moved back into Cabinet to take the post of Secretary of State for Europe.

The "Europe Minister" is now Cabinet rank (although there is some confusion about this). If this is the case, the post of foreign secretary has effectively been split into two - Europe and the rest of the world. One wonders whether the Conservatives will reciprocate with a shadow. David Milliband, incidentally, takes over DEFRA.

Prescott has kept his title of DPM (the initials also stand for Disruptive Pattern Material, the army camouflage material), with his Cabinet salary and grace-and-favour residences - and his government Jag. He is, however, stripped of departmental responsibilities. These are taken over by Ruth Kelly - at least she will not have any "problems" with her diary secretary. Alan Johnson takes over education.

Alistair Darling moves from the joint post of transport and Scotland secretary to take trade secretary, while Douglas Alexander takes his post as transport secretary and takes on the additional role of secretary of state for Scotland.

The election results were a "warning shot" for the government, says Gordon Brown. On the other hand, Hazel Blears, who becomes "chair" of the Labour Party, believes the message from the elections is that "people want us to press on ... do more, go further".



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