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 A/V REPORTS
The BBC's Graham Satchell
"Charles Kennedy has led the Liberal Democrats to their best result since the 1920s"
 real 56k

Lib Dem leader, Charles Kennedy
"We are going to take more seats in the years to come"
 real 56k

The BBC's Carole Walker
"The Liberal Democrats are going to be the ones who can hold the Labour Government to account"
 real 56k

Friday, 8 June, 2001, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Big boost for Kennedy
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy
Kennedy ran a popular campaign
Nick Assinder

The Liberal Democrats have emerged as big winners from the election after securing more MPs for a thrid party than at any time since the 1920s.

Charles Kennedy claimed the Lib Dems were "the party of the future" after he made net gains of six Commons seats - boosting his existing number to 52.

There were early signs that his party was on course for a breakthrough as it delivered the first big surprise of election night by holding the once-safe Tory seat of Torbay with a hugely-increased majority.

It was a devastating early setback for William Hague, who had the seat second on his list of top targets.

Tory leader William Hague
Hague had targeted seat

Most had expected them to win it back with little difficulty.

But the result showed there was still a significant anti-Tory factor at work in the region.

The Tories were clearly the victim of tactical voting.

But that was of little comfort to Mr Hague.

Popular campaign

The Lib Dems' result was also a huge boost for Mr Kennedy, whose leadership had already been enhanced by his successful campaign.

During the campaign, he often spoke of his belief that his party could become the most "effective" opposition to another Labour government.

And he was judged to have run the most successful and engaging campaign of all the party leaders.

More powerful

There had been the usual fears that the party could increase its votes but fail to pick up any extra seats.

But as more results started to flow in during the night, his party's optimism increased and it appeared their election target of increasing both their votes and their Commons seats might be realised.

And that is exactly what happened, providing a huge vindication of Mr Kennedy's campaign which concentrated on "honesty" and claiming the only way to fund public services properly was through tax increases.

And it means he could realise his hope of being in a more powerful position to harry a second Labour government.

The downside, however, is that the second Labour landslide might mean Tony Blair will be in such a strong position that he will simply ignore Mr Kennedy's demands.

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