By Selwyn Manning - Scoop Co-Editor.
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has won an historic third election for Labour albeit with a reduced majority in the House down from a 161 seat majority in 2001 to a 66 to 71 seat lead (exit polls indicated) at close of polling today.
Political commentators in Britain suggest the erosion of Blair's hold on the treasury benches is due to fall-out over the Iraq war and immigration issues.
Predictions of a higher turnout than the dismal 59.4 per cent in 2001 appear to have been justified with an estimated 61+% casting a vote.
Seats were lost to the Conservatives in London and the south-east, while Liberal Democrats ousted sitting Labour MPs in big cities nationwide.
At the time of publishing, Labour lost 46 seats, while the Conservatives gained 32 and the Liberal Democrats added 11.
The results so far: Labour: 353, Conservatives: 195, Lib Democrats: 59, Others: 12 (26 electorates have Still to declare out of a 646 seat Parliament).
Tony Blair acknowledged Iraq had been a 'divisive issue' as he was re-elected to his Sedgefield constituency, and senior party figures, including Gordon Brown and David Blunkett, stressed that the party had to listen to the public."
The Independent reported:
"Labour suffered a spectacular defeat in Hornsey and
Wood Green, north London, where the war was a big issue, at
the hands of the Liberal Democrats, who achieved a huge 14.6
per cent swing.
"'In a clear sign of an "Iraq effect', Labour performed much worse in the capital than other regions. It lost Enfield Southgate, Putney, Hammersmith, Ilford North and Wimbledon to the Conservatives.
"But Michael Howard's party failed to repeat its revival in London and the South-east in the Midlands and North. If it had done so, the Conservatives would have come close to wiping out Labour's overall majority. Lady Thatcher, the former Prime Minister, said the results were 'not looking good enough for the Conservatives'. "
Earlier in the evening Labour members feared a surprise defeat: Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is reported as saying he was "a little suspicious" that Labour's majority would be as low as predicted. He later told BBC1: "There is going to be a Labour government, There is no doubt about that."
Blair, who celebrates his 52nd birthday today, spent the morning working on a Cabinet reshuffle.