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Results dash Lib Dems' campaign hopes

By Kris Jepson

Updated on 07 May 2010

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg had been riding on the crest of a wave but was left deflated describing his party's election results as "disappointing" after losing seats and failing to turn their high poll ratings into votes.

Results dash Liberal Democrat campaign hopes, leaving Nick Clegg 'disappointed' (Reuters)

With some results still to be announced, the party has received 23 per cent of the vote.

Speaking after he had been re-elected to Westminster, a deflated Nick Clegg expressed regret about his party's performance.

Despite winning his Sheffield Hallam constituency by 27,324 votes - and increased majority, Mr Clegg could not hide his disappointment.

"We simply didn't achieve what we hoped," he said.

With most of the results declared, no party has secured enough votes to gain an overall majority.

However the Conservatives will be the largest party.

Mr Clegg reiterated his belief that whichever party wins the biggest mandate at the election would have the "moral right to govern".

"It is for the Conservatives to prove that they are capable of governing", Mr Clegg said, signalling that Mr Cameron should be given the chance to form a government.

Mr Clegg said he would continue to fight for change and fairness in the voting system. "It is abundantly clear that the election system is broken. It simply doesn't reflect the hopes of the British people," he said.

Clegg-factor
Mr Clegg had appeared to be the campaign's biggest winners, with polls suggesting a big bounce in his and the party's ratings from the leaders' tv debates.

However the first indication the party's support had been squeezed emerged at 10pm last night, as the official exit poll suggested it faced a three seat reduction in the 63 seats the Liberal Democrats had before the election.

The Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable had described the exit poll outcome as "very strange".

However as the results were announced, it became apparent that, outside of a few individual results, the so-called Clegg factor had failed to translate into seats at Westminster.

Nationally, the party received around six million votes, only fractionally up from its 2005 performance.

It also failed to win target seats such as Guildford and West Dorset from the Conservatives, and City of Durham and Rochdale from Labour. It also suffered some shock defeats.

High profile losses

Montgomeryshire
The Conservatives ousted Lembit Opik from his Montgomeryshire seat - a shock result in a constituency that was considered as a Liberal Democrat safe seat.

The Tories managed to secure a 13.2 per cent swing with their candidate Glyn Davies winning on 13,976 votes - a 41.46 per cent share of the vote, compared to Mr Opik's 12,792 (37.94 per cent share) votes.

Outgoing MP Lembit Opik admitted the result was unexpected and said he was "disappointed".

He said: "I'm really quite disappointed I lost. I didn't expect the result and neither did my team. It's a sad time for me.

"On the other side if you stand for politics you have to be willing to contemplate the possibility of defeat."

Mr Opik has been the MP in Montgomeryshire since 1997 and is a somewhat flamboyant figure famed for his private life.

He was previously engaged to Cheeky Girl popstar Gabriela Irimia and had a long-term relationship with weather presenter Sian Lloyd.

He said: "I have to admit, since the Lib Dem surge three weeks ago I was not expecting to win tonight.

"I have to admit, what's happened is a surprise. I was stunned for the first half an hour of coming here and seeing it was so close.

"Just coming to terms with this will be my job for tomorrow."

Richmond Park
Susan Kramer, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Richmond Park has lost her seat to the high profile Tory non-dom candidate Zac Goldsmith.

The millionaire environmentalist snatched the affluent constituency seat from Ms Kramer, taking 29,461 votes compared to her 25,370, marking a seven per cent swing to the Tories.

Mr Goldsmith overturned a Lib Dem majority of more than 3,700 which Ms Kramer built up at the 2005 general election.

Ms Kramer thanked voters in the constituency, saying: "You gave me five absolutely wonderful years and I would never be anything other than grateful to you for that."

Winchester
The Conservatives ended 13 years of Liberal Democrat control in Winchester, winning the seat with a 3,048 majority.

Tory candidate Steve Brine pledged not to let the electorate down as he polled 27,155 votes to his Lib Dem rival Martin Tod's 24,107.

The seat had been Liberal Democrat since 1997 when Mark Oaten took it by two votes from the Conservatives. Despite that result being overturned in court, a re-election the same year gave Mr Oaten a majority of over 21,000.

The former Lib Dem home affairs spokesman stepped down before this election after a gay sex scandal was revealed in 2006.

Mr Brine paid tribute to the hard work of Mr Oaten.

Oxford West and Abingdon
Liberal Democrat science spokesman Evan Harris was another high profile loss in the Oxford West and Abingdon seat. He was pipped to the post by just 176 votes by Conservative Nicola Blackwood who managed to secure 23,906 votes.

That compares to Mr Harris's 23,730. The swing of 6.9 per cent to the Tories was a big surprise in a constituency with a large student population.

Consolidatory victories

Eastleigh
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne increased his small majority in Eastleigh, Hampshire. Mr Huhne recorded 24,966 votes to secure victory over Tory candidate Maria Hutchings, who polled 21,102.

Mr Huhne said the initiative would be with the party which had the most seats when the counts are complete - as it stands that will be the Conservatives.

He said: "If they wanted to talk - they might not want to - we would certainly do that to see whether we could provide stable government for the country.

"Before we go into that, we have to see what comes out but first and foremost it is clearly the party which does have the biggest electoral mandate. If your exit poll is right, it is the Conservatives, so the initiative is really with them."

Redcar
One of the biggest swings of the election saw the Liberal Democrats win a seat from Labour in an area hit by huge job losses over the past few months.

The former solicitor general under Gordon Brown, Labour's Vera Baird, lost the seat after polling 13,741 votes compared to 18,955 for Liberal Democrat Ian Swales.

Around 1,600 jobs were lost at the local Corus steelworks earlier this year, and union leaders warned thousands more workers depended on the plant.

The union urged Gordon Brown and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson to intervene to save the jobs. Baird appears to have paid the price for these job losses.

Wells
Tessa Munt beat the prominent euro-sceptic David Heathcoat-Amory by 800 votes in the Somerset seat of Wells, ending a 55-year-long Tory stranglehold on the seat.  

Mr Heathcoat-Amory had faced criticism over his expenses claims for manure.

Norwich South
The former Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke lost his Norwich South seat to the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Clarke, an MP since 1997, said he was "sad" but accepted the "decision of the people".

He said Labour had done "tremendous things" in the city.

Twickenham
Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman Vince Cable held his Twickenham seat, increasing his majority with 32,483 votes in the affluent constituency. Second was Conservative Deborah Thomas who polled 20,343 votes.

With most the constituency results in, the Lib Dem vote is up 0.9 per cent on 2005, Labour down 6.5 per cent and the Conservatives up 4 per cent.

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