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British Voters Send Major a Warning Signal

July 30, 1993|WILLIAM TUOHY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONDON — The ruling Conservative Party suffered a crushing defeat Thursday when its safe parliamentary seat in the Christchurch constituency was won by a Liberal Democrat with a margin of more than 16,000 votes.

The tally showed a record-breaking 35% swing away from the Conservative Party in a parliamentary by-election, and it was widely interpreted as a public repudiation of Prime Minister John Major's government.

Conservative candidate Robert Hayward lost a 23,000-vote majority in the south coast constituency to Liberal Democrat Diana Maddock, who won 33,164 to 16,737. The centrist Liberal Democrats are the third-largest party in Parliament.

The Labor Party candidate ran a distant third in a middle-class area that has traditionally voted for the Conservatives, who have been battered by the worst recession in Britain's postwar history. The seat, held by the Tories since 1910, was left vacant by the death of its Conservative Party lawmaker.

Maddock, the winner, declared: "The message of the election to the prime minister is: Change your policy or change your job."

The Conservative Party chairman, Norman Fowler, declared after the results were announced well past midnight: "It was a very bad result indeed. What we now have to do is put over our policies more positively."

The Conservative defeat came as no surprise--opinion polls and voter samplings showed deep dissatisfaction among the many older voters in Christchurch with the government's policies.

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