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The BBC's Mark Mardell
"It was a very good night for the government"
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Professor John Curtice, Strathclyde University
"All the parties seem to be blaming each other"
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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 14:36 GMT
Labour's by-elections clean sweep
John Robertson, Adrian Bailey, Mark Hendrick and Bill Butler
Labour's four by-election winners
Labour enjoyed a clean sweep at by-elections in three constituencies on Thursday, winning a hat-trick of Westminster seats and one in Holyrood.

West Bromwich West
Labour: 9,640 (51.06%)
Conservative: 6,408 (33.94%)
Lib Dem:1,791 (9.49%)
BNP: 794 (4.21%)
UKIP: 246 (1.30%)
Lab maj: 3,232 (17.12%)
Turn-out: 27.6%
The party held Preston with a majority of 4,426, Glasgow Anniesland by 6,337 votes and re-gained the Labour stronghold of West Bromwich West - previously held by the retiring Commons speaker - by 3,232 votes.

Labour also retained the Scottish Parliament seat up for grabs in Glasgow Anniesland.

Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said it was a good night for the government but confessed to "concern" at the low turn-out that marked all four contests.

Labour's Mark Hendrick
Labour's victorious Preston candidate Mark Hendrick
The Glasgow vote was the highest with 38.42% of the registered electorate turning out. The Preston turnout was 29.7%; in West Bromwich West it was even lower at 27.6%.

But the Conservatives hailed what they described as a significant swing in their favour in seats in Labour's heartland.

'Steady progress' - Hague

Tory leader William Hague said: "It's the Conservatives who increased their share of the vote across the constituencies, particularly the two in England."

"That is steady progress on top of what we have achieved in elections earlier in the year and that is encouraging to us," he said.

"We have to work still harder for the general election - but it shows it is going in the right direction."

Labour: 9,765 (45.71%)
Conservative: 5,339 (24.99%)
Lib Dem: 3,454 (16.17%)
Lancs Socialist: 1,210 (5.66%)
UKIP: 458 (2.14%)
Green: 441 (2.06%)
Preston All: 416 (1.95%)
BNP: 229 (1.07%)
BBCAP: 51 (0.24%)
Lab maj. 4,426 (20.72%)
Turn-out: 29.4%
Mr Byers, however, blamed the Tories for deliberately sowing disillusionment with politics in an attempt to be voted in "by default".

"What we are seeing is a Conservative approach which basically wants to turn people off of politics so they don't bother to vote, that's really the strategy," he said.

'Back-door' strategy

Downing Street later repeated the claim, saying Prime Minister Tony Blair believed the Tories had a "back-door strategy" to create low turn-outs through encouraging cynicism about politics

Mr Blair's spokesman said all politicians had a responsibility to stress the importance of voting.

The spokesman added that a mooted television debate between Mr Blair and Mr Hague might encourage a greater turn-out

Glasgow Anniesland - Westminster
Labour: 10,539 (52.14%)
SNP: 4,202 (20.79%)
Conservative: 2,188 (10.83%)
Lib Dem: 1,630 (8.06%)
Scottish Socialists: 1,441 (7.13%)
Family Action Movement 212 (1.05%)
Lab maj. 6,337 (31.35%)
Turn-out: 38.4%
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said Thursday's results showed "no enthusiasm for Labour, no hope for the Tories and a steady advance for the Liberal Democrats"

He insisted that "this bodes well for Liberal Democrats' prospects in the general election".

The "super-Thursday" contest was seen as the last major electoral test of Mr Blair's government before an expected general election in May.

The victors

In Preston, Lancashire, there was a 9% net swing away from Labour, but the benefit was shared by Tories and Lib Dems, as both parties improved their showings compared with the 1997 election.

The seat fell vacant after the death in September of veteran Labour left-winger Audrey Wise.

The new MP, Blair loyalist Mark Hendrick - a former MEP for the area - also gives the Commons an addition to the disproportionately small number of MPs from the ethnic minorities.

Glasgow Anniesland - Scot Parl result
Labour: 9,838 (48.65%)
SNP: 4,462 (22.07%)
Tory: 2,148 (10.62%)
Scottish Socialists: 1,429 (7.07%)
Lib Dem: 1,384 (6.84%)
Scottish Greens: 662 (3.27%)
Socialist Labour: 298 (1.47%)
Lab. maj. 5,376 (26.59%)
Turn-out: 38.4%
But at the Preston count there were also signs of the divisions that hampered Labour's campaign when Mr Hendrick was jeered by left-wing opponents during his victory speech.

Splits in the Labour camp were caused by opposition to the choice of Mr Hendrick to fight the seat instead of Audrey Wise's daughter, former GLC stalwart Valerie.

Though previously a safe Labour seat, the West Bromwich West poll was the first time the constituency had seen a genuine contest since 1992.

As is the tradition with the speaker's seat, the main political parties did not contest it at the last general election. This time, though, Labour's Adrian Bailey won.

In the late Donald Dewar's former seat of Glasgow Anniesland, the swing was around 6% from Labour to the Scottish National Party in both the Westminster and Holyrood polls.

John Robertson, chief of the local Anniesland Labour Party, won the Commons seat; Glasgow city councillor Bill Butler the Scottish Parliament seat.

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See also:

24 Nov 00 | Scotland
Labour holds Dewar seats
24 Nov 00 | Talking Politics
By-election results in full
23 Nov 00 | Scotland
Anniesland goes to the polls
11 Oct 00 | Donald Dewar
PM leads Dewar tributes
04 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Labour MP Audrey Wise dies
12 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Speaker Betty Boothroyd to retire
24 Nov 00 | UK Politics
By-election relief for Blair
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