Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Ministers face up to losing their seats

A swathe of current and former Government ministers lost their seats in the General Election today.

In some cases at least, voters may have been venting their anger over the parliamentary expenses scandal.

Those rejected by the electorate included former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and health minister Ann Keen.

Ms Smith, who was forced to apologise last year for an expenses claim which included adult films watched by her husband Richard Timney, was one of the most high-profile casualties of the poll.

The former "Blair Babe" received 13,317 votes, which meant losing her Redditch constituency to Tory Karen Lumley, who won 19,138 votes.

Ms Smith said she was "pleased" to have taken part in the contest.

"It's a good thing to take part in an election when you fear you're going to lose as well as when you hope you're going to win."

Mrs Keen lost her Brentford and Isleworth seat to the Tories.

Her Conservative opponent, Mary Macleod, polled almost 2,000 more votes.

Earlier Mrs Keen's husband Alan was returned as Labour MP for the neighbouring constituency of Feltham and Heston with a majority of more than 4,000.

In March this year the pair were ordered to repay £1,500 in expenses claimed for running a second home where they were actually living full-time.

The house in Brentford was taken over by squatters protesting against the way the pair were getting taxpayers' money.

Communities minister Shahid Malik lost his Dewsbury seat to the Conservatives' Simon Reevell, who captured 18,898 votes compared with Mr Malik's 17,372.

Mr Malik had been linked to the expenses scandal but was cleared last month of having abused the system.

He complained then that "politically motivated complaints have to be investigated and as such they do cause profound hurt and anxiety, especially to the families of innocent MPs as well as greatly damage their reputation".

Other well-known names voted out included former Home Secretary Charles Clarke and employment minister Jim Knight.

Mr Clarke, who has repeatedly criticised Gordon Brown's leadership, lost his Norwich South seat to the Liberal Democrats' Simon Wright, who secured a narrow majority of 310 votes.

"Over the last 13 years, I believe Labour has achieved magnificent things both in this city and in the country," he said.

"I believe that in the future things have to be thought through."

He added: "I blame my loss on the fact that we were not able to make our case."

Mr Knight found himself out of a job after losing his Dorset South seat to Tory candidate Richard Drax.

He received 15,224 votes to Mr Drax's 22,667 - a swing of 9.26% to the Conservatives.

Mr Knight said: "Gordon has already rung me. In amongst everything else he has got to worry about today, I think that's a tribute to him.

"That's part of being a leader."

Mr Knight added he was "saddened and disappointed" at his defeat.

"The consolations that I can draw are that as I've been around talking to people they've been very warm and generous about what I've done for them, and I don't take it personally.

"I think it's part of a tide that's particularly swept across the south coast where people haven't wanted to vote Labour in enough numbers."

Armed forces minister Bill Rammell lost his Harlow seat in a 5.9% swing to the Conservatives. Tory Robert Halfon won with 19,691 votes, compared with Mr Rammell's 14,766.

The Conservatives ousted four Labour health ministers.

Apart from the defeat of Mrs Keen, Labour saw Mike O'Brien lose at Warwickshire North to Conservative candidate Dan Byles, who secured a majority of just 54.

Care services minister Phil Hope lost in Corby to Tory Louise Bagshawe, who won with 22,886 votes compared with Mr Hope's 20,935.

Public health minister Gillian Merron received 16,105 votes at Lincoln, but it was not enough to beat Tory Karl McCartney, who won with 17,163 votes.

Solicitor General Vera Baird lost to the Liberal Democrats in Redcar. She was beaten by Ian Swales with a 21.8% swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, receiving 13,741 votes to Mr Swales's 18,955.

It is thought voters may have taken revenge over the Government's failure to keep open the Corus steelworks in the area.

Third sector minister Angela Smith lost at Basildon South and Thurrock East to the Tories' Stephen Metcalfe. She polled 13,852 votes compared with Mr Metcalfe's 19,624.

The Conservatives seized the Stafford seat from energy and climate change minister David Kidney, who polled 16,587 compared with winner Jeremy Lefroy's 22,047.

International development minister Mike Foster lost his seat in Worcester to the Tories' Robin Walker, who polled 19,358 votes compared with Mr Foster's 16,376, a swing of 6.43% to the Conservatives.

Transport minister Chris Mole lost his Ipswich seat to Conservative candidate Ben Gummer.

Mr Mole gained 16,292, against Mr Gummer's 18,371.

Paul Clark, another transport minister, lost the seat in Gillingham and Rainham, where he polled just 12,944 votes, to the Conservatives' Rehman Chishti who received 21,624 votes.

Minister for disabled people Jonathan Shaw was ousted by Tory candidate Tracey Crouch in Chatham and Aylesford, in a notional 11.05% swing to the Conservatives.

Cabinet Office minister Dawn Butler was defeated at Brent Central where Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather was successful with 44.18% of the vote, in a notional 10.99% swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats.

Criminal justice minister Claire Ward came third in Watford, where Tory Richard Harrington was elected following a notional 6.8% swing from Labour to the Conservatives.

The Tories were denied their "Portillo moment" as Labour Schools Secretary Ed Balls narrowly took the new Morley and Outwood constituency.

Mr Balls managed to secure a majority of 1,101.

Acknowledging the battle, he said: "I'm of course sorry for the cameras that they didn't quite get the moment they were looking for, but I have to say, it was quite close."

Former Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, who paid back more than £13,000 in capital gains tax during the expenses scandal, held on to her Salford and Eccles seat.

Ms Blears, who quit Gordon Brown's Cabinet on the eve of the European and local elections in June last year, won 16,655 votes, way ahead of her nearest challenger, Liberal Democrat Norman Owen, who polled 10,930.

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