NEITHER Conservative Tim Devlin nor Liberal Democrat Suzanne Fletcher expected to win.

Tory Tim, pictured, who first lost the Stockton South seat to Labour's Dari Taylor in 1997, faced his latest defeat with stoicism and good humour.

He said: "We have done an unbelievable amount of work; we have revived the local party, repaired local finances and recruited new and young people."

Mrs Taylor, who had an increased majority of 9,086 votes, said: "I think we still have a little way to go before we make the statement that there is a reasonable permanence about the way people vote."

Stockton North Labour MP Frank Cook was delighted to retain his seat although his lead was cut from 21,000 to 14,647. Elected in 1983, it is unclear whether the 65-year-old will stand again.P4

ONE of Tony Blair's opponents for his constituency seat is planning a legal objection to the way her campaign was handled.

Helen John, who is serving a three month prison sentence, claims she was not given enough help to make her push for Parliament from behind bars.

An Independent candidate Ms John, a protestor against the threatened Star Wars defence programme at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire, clocked up 260 votes in the battle for the Sedgefield seat.

Having been locked up in Askham Grange Women's Prison, York, for criminal damage, her ability to campaign was already diminished.

But she claims Sedgefield Borough Council did not give her the support she needed, which was made worse by the Prison Service's decision - backed by the Home Office - not to allow her to attend the count on Thursday night.

LABOUR MP Gerry Steinberg's victory in Durham City was, realistically, never in doubt.

Even before all the votes were counted his candidates knew the real issue was about who would come second.

The popular MP, pictured above, had taken Labour's lead from the 1,973 scored by his predecessor Mark Hughes in 1983 to a whopping 22,504 in 1997 as the party swept to power after 18 years of Conservative rule.

Like many of his neighbouring colleagues he saw his majority reduced, down to 13,441.

Liberal Democrat Carol Woods pushed the party into second place, with a 7.82 per cent swing from Labour, ahead of Tory hopeful Nick Cartmell. UK Independence Party candidate Chris Williamson lost her deposit.

BARRISTER Vera Baird, right, stepped into the giant shoes of Mo Mowlam when she held the safe Labour seat of Redcar with a majority of 13,443.

Ms Baird, who revealed she had put a bid in on a house in Redcar earlier in the day, paid tribute to her predecessor who was notably absent from the Redcar Bowl, "People have told me she is a hard act to follow and that is right.

"Mo, all our love and thoughts go with you and we wish you tremendous success in your future.

"I think I am going to be very different from Mo, I hope I can be accessible, I am grounded here where she was a much higher person in the Government."

THE acclaim that heralded Alan Milburn's third General Election victory in Darlington was reserved for a private party in the early hours of yesterday.

The Health Secretary, pictured above, was as calm as ever and his supporters seemed to reflect an almost grateful mood as the result of the ballot revealed an emphatic win for Mr Milburn.

But the margin of his win did not show on the Labour contingent's faces, with the cheers for yet another Milburn majority were saved for the post-election party at a function near Bondgate, in Darlington.

THE Conservatives held on to their most northern outpost when sitting MP Peter Atkinson increased his majority in Hexham.

Labour candidate Paul Brannen needed a swing of only 0.25 per cent to overturn the 222 majority, but when the result was announced just before 5am yesterday, Mr Atkinson had increased the margin to 2,529.

The turnout was 6.6 per cent down on 1997 at 70.9 per cent.

Hexham was one of Labour's key targets throughout the campaign, but Mr Brannen's chances were dealt a blow by the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Hexham remains the only parliamentary seat never to have been lost by the Conservatives.

IT was a long time coming. But when the winner of the fiercely contested Scarborough and Whitby seat was finally declared at 4am yesterday it was music to the ear's of Labour's Lawrie Quinn, below.

The MP had fought a close battle with the Conservative candidate John Sykes which resulted in a tense few hours at Scarborough's Spa Ocean Room.

Both candidates remained buoyant throughout the night, with Sykes confident he could snatch back the seat Quinn stole from him in 1997, with a majority of 5,124.

But as the morning sun peaked through the Ocean Room's windows, the whooping cries of victory came from the Labour corner. Quinn romped past the post with 22,426 votes, a reduced majority of 3,585, with Sykes second on 18, 841 and Liberal Democrat's Thomas Pearce third with 3,977.