British Prime Minister Tony Blair has led his Labor Party to an historic third-consecutive victory, but with a sharply reduced majority. Mr. Blair now joins former Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher as the only British prime minister to win three general elections in a row.
But the victory is bittersweet for Mr. Blair, as voters rejected many Labor Party candidates across the country, and his controversial decision to join the Iraq war was a drag on the party.
After winning his home district in northeast England, Mr. Blair spoke of the challenges ahead.
"It's not yet clear, obviously, what the majority is," he said. "It seems as if it's clear, but also that the British people wanted the return of a Labor government, but with a reduced majority. And we have to respond to that sensibly and wisely and responsibly."
One of his challengers in the Sedgefield district was Reg Keyes, whose soldier son was killed in Iraq. Mr. Keyes warned that the Iraq issue will not go away after the election.
"If this war had been justified by international law, I would have grieved and not campaigned. If weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, again, I would have grieved and not campaigned," added Mr. Keyes. "Tonight there are lessons to be learned, and I hope in my heart that one day the prime minister may be able to say: 'Sorry.'"
Mr. Blair's main rival, Michael Howard of the Conservative Party, says he is ready to work with the prime minister on issues important to Conservatives, such as stronger policing and cleaner hospitals.
"It looks from the way the national results are going that Mr. Blair is going to win a third term for Labor, and I congratulate him on that victory," he said. "I believe that the time has now come for him to deliver on the things that really matter to the people of our country. And if he does, in his third term, then he will have my full support."
Mr. Blair has already said this will be his last election, and he intends to serve a full term. But with the slashing of Labor's majority in Parliament, there is already speculation about when he will be succeeded by his heir apparent, Finance Minister Gordon Brown.