Tories win over key constituencies in the North

The Conservatives made impressive gains across the north of England last night, winning key seats in Yorkshire and the North west.

David Cameron had campaigned hard to rebuild Tory support in areas which it had come to regard as safe under Mrs Thatcher but which have been Labour dominated since 1997. The Conservatives won in the City of Chester, High Peak, Tamworth and South Ribble. It also succeeded in winning Harrogate and Knaresborough from the Liberal Democrats.

As in the south, the surge for Nick Clegg's party failed to materialise, with their support flat-lining in target seats. They failed to overthrow Labour in the highly prized constituency of Durham Central – where despite expecting a big student turnout in their favour they managed a swing of just 0.37 per cent.

The party also looked to have failed to make a long-awaited return in Liverpool, with sources indicating that Labour's Luciana Berger was ahead in the seat of Wavertree.

Labour began the evening badly. In the North-east, voters seemed undeterred by warnings that Mr Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne would target their region with swingeing budget cuts to the public sector. Increased turnouts and changed boundaries delivered substantial swings to the Conservatives in heartland seats, but the landscape remained stubbornly unchanged from 1997.

In Houghton and Sunderland, 26-year-old Bridget Phillipson was safely returned but suffered an 8.4 per cent swing to the Conservatives. In neighbouring Washington and Sunderland West, the shift to the Tories was 11.6 per cent.