While there was no “Portillo moment” a number of senior scalps fell during the gruelling battle.
Former home secretary Jacqui Smith was the most high profile victim. She suffered a humiliating defeat in Reddich, with Tory candidate Karen Lumley gaining a 9.2 per cent swing to leave Smith in the political wilderness. She deserved credit for fighting a battle few expected her to win – but the look on her face suggested she still hoped to pull off an eleventh-hour miracle.
Her former cabinet colleague Charles Clarke, a big beast of British politics, found himself muscled out of the action by baby-faced Lib Dem Simon Wright. A four per cent swing edged the contest by the narrowest of margins.
Lembit Opik offered the Lib Dems an eccentric brand of celebrity but he suffered one of the biggest upsets of the night as a whopping 13 per cent swing snubbed out one of the party’s leading lights.
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson capped an annus horribilis as he was dumped out of the East Belfast seat he had held for 30 years by the city’s lord mayor Naomi Long. Just months earlier his wife Iris quit in disgrace after admitting an affair and being linked to an expenses scandal.
Former communities minister Shahid Malik lost his seat in Dewsbury to the Conservatives. The news has sparked rumours he may consider a London Mayor bid.
Longstanding Tory MP David Heathcoat-Amory, who had held his Burnham-On-Sea constituency for 27 years, was toppled by Lib Dem Tessa Munt. The elder statesman was squeezed out by just 800 votes.
Labour’s Vera Baird suffered one of the biggest swings to lose a previously ultra-safe seat. Lib Dem Ian Swales oversaw a staggering 21 per cent swing to snatch the east coast constituency.
The closest the election came to repeating the notorious giant slaying of Tory Michael Portillo in 1992 was the epic struggle by Ed Balls to cling to his Morley & Outwood seat.
Gordon Brown’s right-hand man was a major Tory target and the battle went to several recounts before Balls was finally awarded the seat. The bullish education secretary gloated to the cameras they had “not got the result you wanted.”
JACQUI SMITH - OUT
CHARLES CLARKE - OUT
LEMBIT OPIK - OUT
PETER ROBINSON - OUT
SHAHID MALIK - OUT
VERA BAIRD - OUT
DAVID HEATHCOAT-AMORY - OUT
ED BALLS - IN