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The victory for Labour in Kent that helped Tony Blair win a second election in 2001


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It was dubbed the quiet landslide, an election distinguished by the fact that the outcome was never really in doubt.

Four years after Labour had stormed to power in 1997, voters rewarded Tony Blair a second term in office.

An Exclusive interview for KM's Paul Francis with Tony Blair.
An Exclusive interview for KM's Paul Francis with Tony Blair.

It was as remarkable a result as four years earlier: with Labour nationally losing just five seats and the Conservatives, under the helm of William Hague, making a solitary gain.

It was the second biggest win in electoral history and Kent was as important a battleground as it had been in the first landslide in 1997.

Blair himself cited the county as one of the key areas - describing constituencies in Kent as “seats for decades that we thought we could never win.”

The party’s battle bus pitched up a number of times, bookending the start and the end of the campaign.

Despite fears that 1997 might prove to be a one-off, the opinion polls indicating a commanding lead proved accurate: it retained the eight seats in Kent it had secured four years earlier.

Tony Blair delivers his speech at the St Mary's island community centre in 2005
Tony Blair delivers his speech at the St Mary's island community centre in 2005

The timing of the election was delayed because of the continuing outbreak of foot and mouth disease, with the poll taking place in June rather than May.

The campaign itself lacked real drama and debate, briefly sparking to life when Labour deputy leader John Prescott threw a punch at a protester who had flung an egg at him during a campaign rally in Wales.

In his autobiography, Blair wrote how the incident had derailed the party’s manifesto launch, “sinking serious policy to the bottom of the political sea.”

It didn't seem to have adversely affected his or the party's fortunes -in fact, some voters seemed to have thought Prescott reacted in the way many would have.

Labour’s 2001 victory arguably represented its high watermark; in the following election in 2005 it held on to seven of the eight Kent seats but did so with vastly reduced majorities - dubbed “super marginals.”

In 2010, under the new leader Gordon Brown, the party lost all the seats it had won in three successive elections and a Conservative coalition with the Liberal Democrats took over.

Two decades on, what happened to the Kent MPs who contributed to Labour’s unparalleled period in office?

Dr Steve Ladyman. Picture by Barry Duffield
Dr Steve Ladyman. Picture by Barry Duffield

Dr Steve Ladyman, South Thanet MP 1997-2010:

Since leaving politics, he has had a number of roles in the social care sector and set up his own company, Oak Retirement, in 2012.

Prior to that, in 2010 he was chief executive of a company managing retirement properties in the UK.

More recently he joined Wiltshire Health and Care, an organisation providing community care to the elderly and vulnerable as its chief executive.

As an MP, he had a spell as transport minister and may be remembered more for an appearance on the BBC’s “Top Gear” show, when he admitted to having nine points on his licence for speeding offences. He set a lap time in the 'Reasonably Priced Car' section of the show, faster than Clarkson's own best time

Former MP Derek Wyatt at Kent Science Park. Picture: Mike Smith
Former MP Derek Wyatt at Kent Science Park. Picture: Mike Smith

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) 1997-2010

A former England rugby international who played club rugby for Bedford and Bath, he was an early champion of the digital revolution. He won comfortably in 2001 but four years later, he saw his majority whittled down to just 79 votes - the third most marginal seat in the country - and decided to stand down in 2010.

He was one of the first MPs to set up a website and picked up an award from the New Statesman magazine for his use of new media to connect with voters. He said: "People can see the effectiveness of my office and it shows them that we are not all cynical politicians buying cowboy boots."

After standing down, he continued to pursue his interest in digital technology with a variety of initiatives. He chaired Royal Trinity Hospice, Clapham for six years between 2011 and 2017. He helped put together the London Hospices Choir in 2016 which had a Christmas Number 1 hit with “The Living Years” which was recorded at Abbey Road studios.

Former MP Howard Stote with Gordon Brown at the Observatory off Southfleet Road in Swanscombe over-looking the Ebbsfleet Valley Developmen. Picture: Matthew Reading
Former MP Howard Stote with Gordon Brown at the Observatory off Southfleet Road in Swanscombe over-looking the Ebbsfleet Valley Developmen. Picture: Matthew Reading

Dr Howard Stoate (Dartford): 1997-2010

After leaving Parliament he became chairman of the Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group in 2013, having continued to practice as a GP during his parliamentary career.

He was among MPs who cited new rules about second jobs in the wake of the expenses scandal for his decision to stand down, saying: “I think my own contribution to the work of Parliament would be diminished if I was to give up general practice, which is why I have decided not to stand as a candidate at the next general election."

Paul Clark introduces Tony Blair on a visit to Medway
Paul Clark introduces Tony Blair on a visit to Medway

Paul Clark (Gillingham and Rainham 1997-2010)

After losing his seat in 2010, he set up a consultancy and PR company Gateway Associates. ​During his time in government, he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Derry Irvine, Charles Falconer, John Prescott and Ed Balls.

He was promoted in 2008 to the role of transport minister.

He stood again in the 2015 general election but was defeated by Conservative Rehman Chishti.

Former Labour MP for Rochester and Strood Bob Marshall-Andrews became an outspoken critic of his party. Picture: Andy Payton
Former Labour MP for Rochester and Strood Bob Marshall-Andrews became an outspoken critic of his party. Picture: Andy Payton

Bob Marshall-Andrews (Medway 1997 - 2010)

Known as something of a political maverick with a rebellious streak, he was not always a loyal supporter of the Tony Blair project but served as MP between 1997 and 2010.

An often outspoken critic of his own party, the barrister and part-time judge seemed to revel in taking on the role of backbench rebel-in-chief.

He famously went on television during the count at the election in 2005 to declare he had lost his seat and blamed Tony Blair for it - at the same time as saying that his own defeat in Medway would be the one piece of good news the Prime Minister would have on the night.

It turned out to be premature: he actually won his seat, albeit with a majority of 213.

He stood down before the 2010 general election and finally lost patience with his own party in 2017 and defected to the Liberal Democrats - saying Labour had become a “basket case” over Brexit.

His political memoir Off Message was published by Profile in 2011 and he has written several other books, among them “Camille: And the Lost Diaries of Samuel Pepys.”

Former Chatham and Aylesford MP Jontahan Shaw
Former Chatham and Aylesford MP Jontahan Shaw

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford 1997-2010)

After losing in 2010, he set up his own consultancy the Shaw Business Partnership, supporting a range of organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

He then joined a cross-party think tank “Policy Connect” as its chief executive in 2016.

Before entering politics, he worked for Kent County Council as a social worker.

During his spell as an MP, he was appointed minister for the disabled and regional minister for the south east.

Former Kent MPs Gwyn Prosser and Jonathan Shaw at a meeting of the Dover Pride Partnership. Picture:Chris Davey
Former Kent MPs Gwyn Prosser and Jonathan Shaw at a meeting of the Dover Pride Partnership. Picture:Chris Davey

Gwyn Prosser (Dover 1997-2010)

Born in Swansea, had a lengthy career in naval engineering before entering politics as a local councillor in Dover in 1987 and as a county councillor. He defeated the long-standing MP David Shaw in Labour’s landslide victory in 1997, going on to serve three consecutive terms as MP.

After defeat in 2010, he retired from politics.

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