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The political map of Britain

This is how the nation voted four years ago. As expected, Labour's support was strongest in Scotland and Wales and the old heavy industry regions of England. The Conservatives dominated the English rural and suburban areas, while the Liberal Democrats were the second party in the South-west.

But though it won two-thirds of the seats and a 179-seat parliamentary majority in the 1997 landslide victory, Labour got under half the votes.

The Eastern region exemplifies the discrepancies between votes cast and seats won under the "first past the post" system. With less than 1 per cent difference n votes, the Conservatives got 50 per cent more seats than Labour, while the Liberal Democrats got 17.1 per cent of the votes and less than 2 per cent of the seats.

The Conservatives have no Scottish or Welsh seats, despite gaining almost one-fifth of the votes there. And though the Nationalists polled strongly, the Scots may attach less importance to the next general election since devolution has passed law-making powers over education and other services to the Edinburgh Parliament.

Sue Jones

Source: House of Commons fact sheet No. 68 at www.parliament.ukcommonslibfs68

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