“One day,” I overheard one colleague say to another earlier, “we will get to cover an election that the Tories don’t win.” It’s reassuring that, even after last night’s absolute rout for Labour, some people are still capable of feeling so optimistic.
Or at least – more optimistic than I am feeling right now. The Conservative party won three elections on the trot in the fifties, and four in the eighties and nineties. Last night was the fourth in their latest volley, and produced a result from which a fifth seems entirely plausible. That could take us to 2029: the Tories would be in office for longer than they were before Blair.
The headline figures, just in case you’ve been locked in a cupboard with no mobile reception since 9.59pm last night, and have rushed breathlessly to Evening Call to find out what you’ve missed: the Tories won 43.6 per cent of the vote, an increase of 1.2 points, and are up 47 seats, on 365. That gives Boris Johnson a majority of 80 seats – the party’s best result, and first sizeable majority, since 1987.
Labour won 32.2 per cent (down 7.8 points), are down 58 seats, on 203. This is worse than the number of seats, though not votes, that Michael Foot won for the party in 1983 – but still, mind-blowingly, manages to be substantially better than the 191, against 368 for the Tories, that had been predicted by the exit poll. Oh: and some of the losses – Sedgefield, Bolsover, Workington – are seats the Tories have never won in modern history.
Meanwhile, the SNP gained 13 seats in Scotland, taking them to 48 out of 59, and setting the party up for a showdown with Westminster over whether it has a mandate for a fresh independence referendum. Such are Boris Johnson’s facilities for lies and transference that it wouldn’t surprise me even slightly if we actually now ended up living through two referendums, just like he’d told everyone Jeremy Corbyn would give us.
One of the seats the SNP gained was East Dunbartonshire, whose previous MP was one Jo Swinson – a woman who, only a few weeks ago, the Lib Dems were seriously trying to persuade us was a candidate to be Prime Minister. Now – for the second time, before she even turns 40 – she’s been ejected from the Commons, making her, with a tenure of not quite five months, the shortest-lived leader of a major British political party in modern times. If you want more reminders of the election’s key moments – to relive every excruciating detail – Anoosh has written them up here.
There are many, many reasons to be depressed about all this. The fact that, after years of delay, hard Brexit is all but guaranteed. The number of years of Tory hegemony stretching out ahead. The damage a Tory majority could do to public services, labour rights, public service broadcasting, the economy.
But the one that’s bothering me most right now is the way in which Boris Johnson won. He avoided scrutiny, and threatened media organisations which called him on it. He published a wafer thin manifesto, which is barely a plan for the next year let alone for an entire government, and he repeated empty slogans at every opportunity. He told lie after lie after lie. And – he won, by a landslide.
After all that, why should any politician ever play by the rules again?
Good day for
Rethinking the future of the Labour party. Three good pieces on this subject on the NS today: Paul Mason on the end of Corbynism; Anoosh on how we all need to stop banging on about “heartlands”; and Stephen on how the party’s greatest asset right now is the fact that, for the first time in years, it has time to think.
Bad day for
Almost anyone who isn’t a Tory. Not just the obvious reasons: as George notes, the new government is likely to reform electoral law, the legal system and even parliament itself to the Conservatives’ advantage.
Actually, one group who aren’t Tories who very much aren’t having a bad day are the SNP. That’s not just because of their victories last night, but because a Boris Johnson hegemony might nudge the country a bit further towards independence. More on the party’s strategy from our Scotland editor Chris Deerin.
Quote of the day
“Twitter have removed my blue tick. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down.”
Paul Masterton, the now former Tory MP for East Renfrewshire, has not had a good 24 hours.
Everybody’s talking about…
The Labour succession, after Jeremy Corbyn said he won’t fight an election, but remained distinctly hazy on his timetable for stepping down. Stephen has written a useful guide to the rules of the next leadership election, whenever it may come.
Everybody should be talking about…
How Stephen Farry of the cross-community – that is, neither nationalist nor unionist – Alliance party won the race to replace Sylvia Hermon as the MP for North Down. Ailbe somehow, in the middle of liveblogging the result, published this write-up. Honestly, the political reporters round here are so good it scares me sometimes.
I have had about 90 minutes sleep and have had David Bowie’s Five Years playing on a loop in my head since about 2am so please forgive me if the above is less coherent than normal.
Questions? Comments? Email me.
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