Friday, May 07, 2010

Britain wakes up to a hung parliament

As the sun rose over Britain there was no clear winner in the 2010 election and all predictions were that the country would see its first hung parliament since 1974. Around the country the Conservative party took key seats from Labour and also from the Liberal Democrats. There was disappointment amongst the Labour ranks but few were willing to accept defeat completely.

Looking upset after losing her seat in Redditch, former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said it had been "an immense honour" to have served and "I'm obviously sad that's come to an end tonight". She said it was important to take part in elections "when you fear you're going to lose, as well as when you think you're going to win". BBC's Nick Robinson said the problem Jacqui Smith had was that she became synonymous with expenses abuse. "Remember those pornographic films - even before the Daily Telegraph got hold of that now infamous computer disk and set the whole scandalous ball rolling," Robinson commented on her loss.

Smith was not the only high profile departure. Local government minister Shahid Malik lost his seat to the Conservatives in Dewsbury. Earlier, health minister Phil Hope and defence minister Bill Rammell both said goodbye to theirs. However Ed Balls managed to scrape in and hold his Morley and Outwood seat. The BBC's veteran political correspondent David Dimbleby said the Tories had been denied their "Portillo moment". After the result, Balls acknowledged it was "quite close" and paid tribute to his Conservative opponent for fighting a "straight" and "decent" campaign.

It had been a bad night for Labour with more than 78 seats lost, most to the Conservatives. However few within the Labour party were willing to concede defeat throughout the night. Only David Blunkett admitted Labour had lost. "My instinct is that we have regrettably lost the election," he told the BBC. Neil Kinnock, a former candidate for prime minister himself, while not accepting the party was over said earlier that, "it' s not good."

However, despite the loses, it was still not clear what the final outcome would be as dawn approached. At 7 am the Conservative Party had won 282 seats against Labour's 227. The Liberal Democrats had failed to make any headway, losing some territory to the Conservatives. There were some surprises throughout the night too with the Green Party gaining its first parliamentary seat after taking the Brighton Pavilion constituency.

The final result may not be clear until midday, and even then there may be further political tussles if, as many pundits predict, a hung parliament results and Gordon Brown tries to cling to power under constitutional rules. The Conservatives were confident however. "I think it's already clear that Labour has lost the mandate to govern the country," David Cameron said in the early hours of Friday after holding his Whitney seat.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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