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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Single issue triumphs in West Midlands
Dr Richard Taylor
Dr Richard Taylor campaigned on a single local issue
BBC West Midlands political correspondent Patrick Burns says the post-election picture in the West Midlands is dominated by two sensational results and a first for the House of Commons.

It was a night which will go down in the West Midlands in history - an independent candidate winning a seat in the Commons because of a single issue.

Dr Richard Taylor swept to victory in the Wyre Forest seat in Worcestershire with a huge 18,000 majority, nearly three times that of the sitting Labour MPand government minister David Locke.

It is a victory without precedent in modern politics, eclipsing even Martin Bell's achievement in Tatton in 1997.

In that case, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats stood aside because of a national issue which expressed itself in that constituency.

Supporters of Dr Taylor
Health provision in the town galvanised voters
But in Wyre Forest, on the entirely local issue of the future of hospital services in the town, a 66 year-old retired hospital consultant has been propelled into Westminster.

The strength of feeling over the closure of accident and emergency services at Kiddermister Hospital galvanised the community.

It brought thousands into the local election polling booths to vote for the independent Kidderminster Hospital Health Concern candidate.

Dr Taylor said: "The message to the government is that you cannot ride roughshod over a local community's feelings without them."

First Muslim

There were no surprises in the safe Labour seat of Birmingham Perry Barr but a precedent was set for the House of Commons.

Khalid Mahmood has become England's first Muslim Member of Parliament.

He takes over from Jeff Rooker, Minister of State for Social Security, who retired from the seat he has held since 1974.

Khalid Mahmood
Khalid Mahmood is the first Muslim backbencher
Mr Mahmood, a former Birmingham councillor, was controversially selected to fight the seat amid allegations of ballot rigging in the local Labour party.

He denied that he had been foisted on the constituency and said he would be working for everyone regardless of their background.

"I joined the Labour Party because I wanted to be able to represent the whole of the community and I don't think firsts of any sort are anything to look at."

And in Gloucester another non-white MP is heading for the Labour backbenches.

Parm-jit Dhanda takes up the mantle from Tess Kingham after she decided not to stand again.

Ludlow shock

There was a big surprise in Ludlow in Shropshire, where the Liberal Democrat Matthew Green exceeded even the most ambitious expectations.

He secured a thumping 13 per cent swing against the Conservatives, raising his party's West Midlands' contingent from two to three.

But this result put an encouraging gloss on what was otherwise a difficult night for most Liberal Democrats.

Paul Keetch needed a recount to hang on in Hereford and John Hemming failed to break through in the long-standing target seat of Birmingham Yardley.

That leaves Labour's Estelle Morris clear for a likely promotion to the Cabinet as education secretary.

Tory misery

Otherwise it is the sameness of the results across the West Midlands compared with 1997 which is most striking.

Conservative campaigners
The Tories failed to win their target seats
Several Conservatives who had been thought to be in danger actually increased their majorities, including Michael Fabricant in Lichfield, the Shadow Health Minister Caroline Spelman in Meriden and the veteran Euro-sceptic Bill Cash in Stone.

But Labour held onto Rugby and Kenilworth, underlining the extent of the Tory Misery.

The Conservatives needed a swing of just 0.4 per cent to take the seat, a feat they could not manage.

The West Midlands results reflect the general vote of confidence in Labour, which contrast sharply with the Conservatives' total failure to break through in any of their target seats.


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