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From the Archives, 1997: Blair’s new Britain


Earlier, the Labour leader, Mr Tony Blair, told thousands of cheering supporters: “This vote tonight has been a vote for the future for a new era of politics in Britain so that we can put behind us the battles of this past century and address the challenges of the new century.

“It will be a Britain renewed … where we build a nation united with common purpose, shared values, with no-one shut out, no-one excluded …”

Mr Blair‘s composure cracked as he remembered his late mother. “All that could have made this moment complete was that my mother was here as well.”

The scale of Mr Blair’s victory dwarfs those of Margaret Thatcher at the height of her popularity, and also Labour’s previous greatest triumph, the 1945 victory of Clement Attlee.

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An overall swing of 9.5 per cent brought parts of the country to Labour which have long been Tory strongholds. Baroness Thatcher’s former seat, Finchley, fell with a swing of 15 per cent.

Senior Cabinet ministers, including the Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo, the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, and the President of the Board of Trade, Ian Lang, lost their seats.

So great was the rejection of the Conservatives that Scotland and Wales now have no Conservative members. Even in England they were largely obliterated in the major cities and are now mainly a party of the villages.

Women were highly successful, mainly on the Labour side, and the new Parliament will have 100 female MPs. A Labour candidate, Mr Mohammed Sarwar, will be the first Muslim to enter the House of Commons.

Labour’s Mr Ben Bradshaw became the first MP who made no secret of his homosexuality before being elected.

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Three early contenders for the Conservative leadership are likely to be the former ministers Mr Stephen Dorell, Mr Michael Howard and Mr John Redwood, a former challenger to Mr Major.

Mr Blair is expected to spend the weekend choosing his Cabinet. Next month, he will host a visit by the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Howard.



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