Seats toppled one by one as the county turned blue
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.