Election 2001: The 2nd Labour Landslide - England and Wales: Hague's History; Blair Victory Blasts Tories into Oblivion

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Byline: PAUL GILFEATHER, Whitehall Editor, and BOB ROBERTS

LABOUR stormed to a historic second term in Government early today - sending the Tories into political oblivion.

A full second period in office has eluded every Labour leader in the last 100 years.

But Tony Blair's victory proved beyond doubt that modern Britain has no appetite for William Hague's reactionary extremism.

Polls predicted a similar majority to the 177-seat landslide Labour won four years ago.

The verdict of Britain's voters triggered the beginning of a bloodbath at Conservative HQ.

As Mr Blair was travelling back to Downing Street from his Sedgefield constituency in County Durham, Tory chiefs were already plotting Mr Hague's replacement.

The Prime Minister had earlier made the 200-yard walk from his home locally to the polling station at the Trimdon colliery community centre.

He was joined by his wife Cherie and their three teenage children, Euan, 17, Nicky, 15, and 13-year-old Kathryn. Baby Leo was asleep at home.

Looking relaxed and confident, Mr Blair proudly showed off the trio, telling onlookers: "They're growing up, aren't they. They are getting bigger."

Euan put his arm round Nicky as they posed for the massed bank of cameras.

Cherie, wearing red bootleg trousers and a red-and-white blouse, held Kathryn's hand before they all went inside the wooden building. Despite the cold weather, Mr Blair had discarded his jacket.

His full name, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, was first on the ballot paper.

Alongside were Douglas Carswell, from the Tory Party, Christopher Driver, of the Rock and Roll Loony Party, Lib Dem Andrew Duffield, Socialist Labour Party candidate Brian Gibson, Independent Helen John and Andrew Spence, from United Kingdom Independence Party.

Mr Blair went on to visit constituency workers in Trimdon and make one last push to get out the vote before returning to his home.

Mr Hague, whose focus on issues like Europe and asylum-seekers at the expense of public services, was being seen as a huge strategic blunder, cast his vote in his North Yorkshire constituency of Richmond.

The Tory leader and his wife Ffion were among the first voters to arrive at the Booth Memorial Institute in Catterick.

This was the nearest polling station to his constituency home in the village of Tunstall.

Mr Hague joked with poll clerks and returning officers: "I've even brought my polling card, in case you didn't know who we were."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy had already voted by post in his far-flung constituency of Ross, Skye and Inverness West.

But he made an appearance at a polling station at the Memorial Hall in Fort Augustus, at the southern end of Loch Ness.

Ballot chiefs reported a sluggish start to voting across the country.

But last night Labour bosses - who had seen their majority rise to 179 over the last four years - were still predicting a turnout of about 70 per cent. …