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12 December 2019updated 17 Jan 2024 5:57am

Evening Call: The big day finally arrives

By Jonn Elledge

“This,” New Statesman contributor Imogen West-Knights tweeted last night, “is the exact middle vibe between night before an exam and Christmas Eve.”

She was not wrong. Sat there at well past 1am, one of the many people who felt strangely unable to switch off the internet and go to bed, I found myself possessed by a confusing mixture of nervous excitement and abject dread. It was like a weird inversion of a feeling I remembered from childhood – the notion that, the sooner I went to bed, the sooner it would be Christmas. The longer I stayed up, the longer I could put off the inevitable.

But the relentless march of time continues, whether we want it to or not, and election day is finally here. There’s relatively little to report today – after the chaos of a campaign, the day itself is always strangely quiet, the calm before the storm. And while there are plenty of rumours of surprisingly high/low turnout, despite/because of the weather, it’s all but impossible to divine which have any basis in reality, or what they might mean for the result. To commit a fairly big faux-pas in political writing in 2019, I’m going to quote The West Wing: “The same night awaits us all.” We’ll know soon enough, and it’s going to be a late one. Why waste energy on speculation?

More fruitfully, Stephen has written a helpful guide to how we’re expecting the night to play out. (This will become our liveblog at around 9.30pm.) And if you want something to read in the meantime to get you in the mood, here is a selection of the best journalism the New Statesman team has produced during the course of this campaign.

“The Tories are haunted by lost majorities from elections they believed they’d win.” Stephen’s last politics column of the campaign, on nervousness in the Tory ranks.

“The Liberal Democrats are taking a risk they don’t need over Article 50.” Ailbhe called the problem with the yellow team’s revoke policy, all the way back in September.

“Will Labour topple Iain Duncan Smith in the Chingford and Woodford Green Tory heartland?” Anoosh on a seat that might – might – just provide tonight’s Portillo Moment.

“On the road in Ashfield, the UK’s most gambled-on constituency.” Patrick visits the Nottinghamshire coalfields – the sort of historically Labour seat that the Tories are hoping to flip.

“The Liberal Democrats are targeting St Ives – where nobody is talking about Brexit.” George Grylls visits Cornwall.

“In Keighley, local issues are uniting a divided constituency.” Ellie on a Yorkshire bellweather.

“Norwich North is a key political battleground. But its voters are tired of the fight.” Indra on one of the few marginal seats in her native East Anglia.

“We’ve failed to prevent the spread of disinformation, and it’s corroding society.” Jasper on the fake news that’s done so much damage this campaign.

“Why voters trust certain politicians, even when they know they’re lying.” Will on the confusion between “trust” and “truth” that explains how we got into this mess.

“Labour’s promise of free broadband is a reminder of the internet’s true history.” Hettie on the myth of market rule.

“From the front lines of a feminist disrupter campaign.” Alona on the Women’s Equality Party.

“We’re going to be here long after Jeremy Corbyn and I are dead.” George goes inside Momentum.

“I cannot vote in the general election. And now more than ever, my life is in your hands.” Sarah, on how it feels to be in the middle of an election you can’t vote in.

And lastly: my seven reasons to be cheerful tonight.

And that’s the 2019 election campaign. There are no days to go. Next time we speak, we’ll know.

Good luck, everyone.

Good day for…

Dramatic irony. The Times’s Matt Chorley this morning noted that today is “the first anniversary of Theresa May surviving a vote of no confidence amongst Tory MPs, which meant that she couldn’t be ousted again for a year”. She resigned a little over six months later. Another convention over-turned.

Bad day for…

Our grip on reality. There’s a photo doing the rounds of Diane Abbott at a polling station wearing two left shoes that clearly don’t match. It’s almost certainly photoshopped – there are other photos of her out there today clearly wearing a matching pair including the shoe on her left foot – but this hasn’t stopped it spreading like norovirus in an infant school. It’s all very, very depressing.

(This story, incidentally, was suggested by Agnes Frimston, whose multiple contributions to this newsletter since its inception have not had the recognition they deserve. Thank you, Frim.)

Quote of the day

“Boris Johnson first prime minister for decades not to vote for himself as he visits polling station in Westminster.”

A headline in the Telegraph noting that the PM was breaking tradition by voting in the constituency in Westminster, not in his own seat (in this case, Uxbridge & South Ruislip). It won’t happen – life isn’t that kind – but the possibility of him losing to Labour’s Ali Milani by a single seat is quite lovely, isn’t it?

Everybody’s talking about…

Well, the election, obviously, but apart from that: the US House of Representatives is today debating the impeachment of President Trump.

The impeachment hearings will still be here tomorrow, though your dreams may not. Anyway, if you do want to follow along, CNN is covering live.

Everybody should be talking about…

The best election liveblog in the business, on which Stephen, Patrick and Ailbhe will report all tonight’s results as they come in. It’ll kick off here at 9.30PM.

Also, the NS now has a TikTok account! I’m too old to know what that is, but if you aren’t you should subscribe.

And if for some reason you want my rather less informed takes, they will be available on Twitter.

See you on the flipside.

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