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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 03:38 GMT 04:38 UK
Blair hails 'historic moment'
Prime Minister Tony Blair has hailed as an "historic moment" Labour's imminent landslide return to government.
He was speaking on a night of triumph for Labour as seat after seat on the party's 'at risk' list was safely secured and predictions put their Commons majority at around 173.
Mr Blair, speaking at his Sedgefield count at 0130 BST on Friday, thanked the British people and said: "There is no greater honour than to serve you as prime minister and you have given us tonight an historic moment for the Labour Party."
He said there was much to take pride in over the past four years but "absolute humility" over the job ahead.
"That is a challenge that I relish," he added.
Mr Blair secured his seat with a 17,713 majority, down 9% from his 25,143 majority in 1997 on a swing to the Tories of 4.7%.
Soon afterwards his former confidant and twice-sacked cabinet minister Peter Mandelson secured his Hartlepool constituency with a majority of 14,571, down from 17,508 at the last election.
He delivered a passionate victory speech, deriding his political enemies "because I am a fighter, not a quitter".
Tory defector Shaun Woodward won his St Helens South seat for Labour with a 8,985 vote majority compared to the 23,739 won by his predecessor in 1997.
Under fire Europe Minister Keith Vaz held Leicester East but suffered an 8% drop in his vote while Stephen Twigg - who vanquished Michael Portillo in 1997 - won Enfield Southgate again with a majority increased by more than 4,000.
Among the sour notes for Labour was independent health campaigner Richard Taylor deposing junior Lord Chancellor's Office Minister David Lock in Wyre Forest.
The Labour successor to veteran Tony Benn, who stood down as an MP at this election, was also rejected by voters in Chesterfield in favour of a Liberal Democrat.
However, the night got off to an excellent start for Labour with exit polls suggesting they would secure another landslide.
The first declaration of the night at 2243 BST saw International Development Minister Chris Mullin - as expected - hold Sunderland South with a 13,667 majority.
At around 0100 Labour recorded their first gain of the night at Ynys Mon (Anglesey) in north Wales, where they took the seat from Plaid Cymru.
Their second came three hours later at Dorset South when Tory Ian Bruce was deposed, apparently at the hands of Lib Dem voting tactically.
Labour recorded victory in 330 seats - assuring its Commons majority - at 0258 and around 15 minutes later Conservative leader William Hague telephoned Mr Blair and conceded the election.
"There is enthusiasm for Labour - people recognise we have started but still have a lot to do."
He said low turn out was a trend in western industrialised democracies but conceded it was "something we all have to look at".
David Blunkett said if Labour was on course to win a majority greater than Margaret Thatcher's in 1983 "we have got to rejoice and be happy, but then draw breath and decide how to engage with people," he said.
Former Labour deputy leader Roy Hattersley, who has warned against the dangers of a landslide for his party, said he was "quite glad" the Lib Dems had gained some seats from the Conservatives.
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