Blair's back, although he took a hit that will force him to play the humble servent for a while. There were a significant number of seats that shifted from Labour to Tory, though this may well be a quirk of first-past-the-post voting: if enough voters shift from Labour to Lib-Dem then the Tories can win, even if they have no swing toward them.
The Lib-Dems were disappointing in not being able to capitalise further on the anti-Labour sentiment, capturing just 11 new seats when Labour lost 47. The Tories managed to snap up many of these, and the potential for two equally balanced oppostion parties, in the Lib-Dems and the Tories, attacking Pincer-style from the left and from the right, is not to be.
The message that can be taken from the result is that voters are gradually plucking up the courage to vote again for the tainted Conservative brand. Voters were concerned about the unrestrained power possessed by Blair in his previous term in office, and want to choke it back. Turfing out some sitting Labour MPs was the best way to do it.
Blair now runs the risk of being a lame duck Prime Minister. He's already announced that this will be his final term as PM, but the $64 question (damn I wish I had the pound symbol on this keyboard) is just when will he hand the reins over, and more to the point, who the hell does he think he is riding Santa's sleigh anyway? The voters' gentle rebuke of Blair suggests that sooner rather than later is the time to hand them over. He risks outstaying his welcome, and making electoral success even tougher for his successor, if he refuses to heed the message. In his victory speech, ex-Labour nutter George Galloway suggested that Blair resign in the morning. It won't quite happen that way, but Blair needs to start thinking about it. Blair has a good enough sense of history to go with grace and dignity rather than forcing his deputy Gordon Browne to challenge. Watch for it in late 2006.