The Government's defeat with a 29 per cent swing to Labour - one of the biggest this century - led to a right-wing backlash against John Major. The Prime Minister admitted the poll was a "very poor result" for the Government but said voters were "unusually volatile".
"I think some good can come out of it, providing people realise within the Conservative Party that we are all pulling in the same direction," he said. "There is no doubt a great deal is going right economically and in other ways, but the message simply isn't getting through."
Right-wingers immediately demanded the reinstatement of the whip for the nine Tory rebels, and a return to Thatcherite policies, including tax cuts.
The Labour leader was jubilant at his party's breakthrough in one of the key Midlands seats, but warned Labour not to be complacent about winning new supporters from the Tories. Labour will sharpen its appeal to them with a spring offensive on law and order, the welfare state and the economy and by scrapping Clause IV and launching a membership drive to change the party culture.
Mr Blair said: "It is absolutely essential that we, of course, rejoice in a very substantial victory but that we carry on with the process of change that has brought us such benefits.
"There is deep disaffection from the Conservatives. They like what they see of the Labour Party,our ideas, the direction we are heading. but we have got to carry on that process and we have to deepen that bond of trust. Far from this victory being a reason for slowing the pace of modernisation and reform, it's the reason for continuing with it."
Right-wing anger, page 2
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