Seats top­pled one by one as the county turned blue

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

IT WAS a night when Labour’s pri­vate fears were cru­elly re­alised, the Con­ser­va­tives hopes ful­filled and the Lib­eral Demo­crat dream was crushed.

In a mat­ter of just a few hours on Thurs­day night, the po­lit­i­cal map of Kent was dra­mat­i­cally re-shaped, the county turn­ing com­pletely blue for the first time since 1997.

The Con­ser­va­tives cap­tured ev­ery one of the seven key marginals they had so as­sid­u­ously tar­geted and com­fort­ably held the other nine, in­creas­ing their ma­jori­ties by thou­sands in sev­eral where they al­ready en­joyed a more than com­fort­able cush­ion.

Like a set of skit­tles, seats held by Labour since the 1997 Blair land­slide were top­pled one by one. The writ­ing was on the wall the moment that Dover – on paper, Labour’s safest in the county with a ma­jor­ity of just un­der 5,000 – fell to the Con­ser­va­tives.

There was a sense of in­evitabil­ity as they pro­ceeded to lose the re­main­ing six, with de­feats fol­low­ing rapidly in Dart­ford, Thanet South then the three Med­way con­stituen­cies round­ing off a truly mis­er­able night.

Ju­bi­lant Con­ser­va­tives were fi­nally able to cel­e­brate gains that many had ex­pected but af­ter the bit­ter dis­ap­point­ment 2005 were too cir­cum­spect to pub- licly pre­dict. The swing against Labour in some con­stituen­cies was crush­ing as vot­ers opted for change. It is hard to see any­thing but a lengthy spell in the po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness for Labour.

Its achieve­ments in hold­ing on to seats in Kent for 13 years owed much to Tony Blair, whose broad ap­peal helped de­liver mid­dle Eng­land votes that en­abled it to stay in power for so long.

Af­ter his de­par­ture, the chal­lenge of re­sist­ing the Con­ser­va­tives’ pow­er­ful mes­sage that it was time for change be­came even harder.

Labour may take some con­so­la­tion from the fact that the elec­torate is much more volatile and un­pre­dictable than ever be­fore and the na­tional re­sults threw up some un­ex­pected re­sults.

Mean­while, the Lib Dems fell short of their aim to po­si­tion them­selves as the main chal­lenger to the Con­ser­va­tives in most Kent seats, with the ex­cep­tion of Maid­stone and the Weald and Can­ter­bury.

The process of re­group­ing and re­build­ing for both par­ties af­ter such a heavy de­feat will take some time.

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