West Country turns blue as Lib Dem vote falls short

The Conservatives looked set to sweep to power across the South-west, raising expectations within the party yesterday evening.

In a disappointing night for Nick Clegg and his party, the Liberal Democrats saw hopes of gaining ground in their traditional West Country heartland fall by the wayside as they lost seats to a resurgent local Conservative Party.

The Tories picked up the key seat of Kingswood near Bristol on a 9.4 per cent swing from the Labour Party and enjoyed a 4.3 per cent swing from the Liberal Democrats in Thornbury and Yate, although they failed to take that seat.

In the three-way marginal of Bristol North West, early indications suggested that the Conservatives were set to edge out the Liberal Democrats after a highly competitive race, with Labour pushed into third place.

John Goulandris, the Tory whip for Bristol, said he expected the Liberal Democrats to lose seats to the Conservatives in the South-west although the Labour vote had held up better than he expected.

"The vibe was that the Labour vote had gone completely and Labour workers looked despondent, so it actually seems to have held up surprisingly well. Maybe people felt sorry for Gordon Brown," he said.

A similar vote across the region would see the Conservatives pick up Taunton Deane and Chippenham from incumbent Liberal Democrat MPs.

There was better news for the Liberal Democrats in Torbay where the incumbent MP Adrian Sanders slightly increased his lead over the Tory candidate.