Election 97

The West Midlands

West Midlands 92 West Midlands 97
The great cities of this sprawling and variegated region, chief of them Birmingham, decisively rejected the Conservatives at this election. In the central county, named (confusingly) West Midlands, the first signs of the Tories' national disaster came in with the early result at Birmingham Edgbaston, where Labour's Gisela Stuart swept to victory. In Birmingham, they also gained a seat expected to fall to them, Hall Green. Things went from bad to worse, as Birmingham's southwestern suburbs of Halesowen and Rowley Regis and Stourbridge fell to Labour, along with Enoch Powell's old constituency of Wolverhampton South West. With the loss of their last seat in Coventry, Coventry South, the Conservatives were reduced, in this county, to a rural/suburban strip between Birmingham and Coventry.

More tears were in store in Warwickshire, where the Tories were reduced to one seat in the county, Stratford-on-Avon, previously held by maverick Tory MP Alan Howarth, who defected to Labour. Only one of their two gains, Warwick and Leamington, can Labour have expected to take but, in the event, Rugby and Kenilworth also fell to them, albeit with a mere 495 majority.

In Staffordshire and Shropshire (the latter traditionally a Tory agricultural county), to the north of Birmingham, Labour achieved the usual feat at this election of reducing the Conservatives to a rural rump. In Staffordshire, they gained their expected prize of Burton, held their 1996 by-election gain of Tamworth and went on to pick up the extra plum of Stafford. The results in Shropshire were more surprising, with the Tory loss of their stronghold at Shrewsbury and Atcham and the new seat of The Wrekin, which was tipped to be a Tory fiefdom.

In Worcestershire, Labour picked up their targets of Worcester itself ('Worcester Woman' came through) and Redditch, with the unexpected prize of Wyre Forest, while in Herefordshire, the Lib Dems registered their only gain in the West Midlands this time (their hopes were dashed by the Labour landslide in marginal Birmingham Yardley), in the form of Hereford, a seat they have hoped to win at election after election. They will be hard to dislodge now, from their only seat in the government standard region of the West Midlands.

There was some small consolation for the Conservatives in Oxfordshire (given a free transfer here from the South East standard region to keep the VRML size down). They held all their (largely rural) seats, with the single expected loss of Oxford West and Abingdon, which easily fell to the Lib Dems.