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11 December 2019

Seven reasons to be cheerful this election

By Jonn Elledge

So: I was wrong. At the start of this campaign, I wrote a piece offering not one, not two, but eleven different reasons to be excited about this stupid, boring election that’s about to happen to all of us whether we want it to or not. Everyone thought I was mad.

And on this occasion, it turns out, the will of the people was right, and the sneering metro-lib in his ivory tower was very, very wrong. This campaign has been boring and depressing and Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is all but certain to win. Tomorrow night is going to be awful.

But! I am an optimist – okay, no I’m not, but I’m willing to pretend I am in the cause of content – and more to the point I am clutching at straws. So here are seven possibilities that might just provide a ray of light amidst the all-encompassing dark that will very possibly fall across Britain like a shroud when the exit poll drops tomorrow night at 10pm.

1. Iain Duncan Smith might lose his seat.

The former welfare secretary’s seat of Chingford & Woodford Green, on the north-eastern fringe of London, has been trending red-wards in recent years, as the people priced out of Hackney move to Walthamstow, and the people priced out of there move on further up the line. Largely as a result, the Tory lead over Labour has fallen from 30 points in 2010, to 19 in 2015 and then to just five in 2017.

According to the YouGov MRP model, Labour’s Faiza Shaheen is just two points behind Iain Duncan Smith now – so while he’s the favourite, it’s a real fight. Imagine quite how joyous it will feel, even during a national Tory victory, to watch the architect of Universal Credit finally ejected by the voters.

2. So might Dominic Raab

The MRP still has IDS as the favourite. Dominic Raab doesn’t even have that comfort. The Foreign Secretary’s Esher & Walton seat down is down as a toss-up, with the Lib Dems’ Monica Harding a mere two points behind. Even the slightest hint of tactical voting in this stretch of rich-but-Remain-y Surrey suburbia could put her over the top.

Raab, you could argue, hasn’t done as much damage as Duncan Smith. That, I would reply, is because he hasn’t been given the chance. I hope, for all our sakes, that the voters of Esher & Walton deprive him of it.

3. Zac Goldsmith almost certainly will

The MRP has Richmond Park down as a probable Lib Dem gain, with the yellow team looking likely to get between 50 and 60 per cent of the vote.

This will provide a much needed opportunity for personal growth for the Remain area’s Brexit-supporting Tory MP, who, let’s not forget, ran a truly appalling campaign to be mayor of London in 2016. To be fair, it won’t be Goldsmith’s first taste of public humiliation. Aside from getting his arse handed to him by Sadiq Khan, he’s also lost Richmond Park before, in December 2016, after a by-election triggered by his decision to resign and stand as an independent over the government’s Heathrow expansion plans. As on that occasion, the woman poised to defeat him tomorrow is the Lib Dem Sarah Olney. (She’s bad on housing, but you can’t have everything.)

4. The DUP will probably lose seats

For the last couple of years, the Democractic Unionist Party has held 10 of the Northern Irish seats at Westminster. This has inevitably meant that the DUP’s particular brand of politics – very right-wing, deeply socially conservative, reactionary – has affected views of Northern Ireland on this island.

But of course not everyone in Northern Ireland shares those views, as this election may very well make clear. On a bad night the party could lose three of its 10 seats – including its deputy leader Nigel Dodds’ North Belfast. The large chunk of Northern Irish voters who don’t vote DUP – and, y’know, anyone who cares about, say, LGBT rights or women – will rejoice.

5. An independent could win in Devon

East Devon – Exmouth, Ottery St Mary, and so forth – has been Conservative since 1835, making it the seat that’s been held longest by a single party anywhere in the country.

But Tory Simon Jupp might be about to lose, to county councillor and independent candidate Claire Wright. She won 24 per cent of the vote in 2015, and 35 per cent in 2017. Now, according to the MRP, she and Jupp are in a statistical tie. It genuinely could go either way. More on East Devon from Anoosh here. (Also, a confession: this paragraph originally identified the Tory candidate as Hugo Swire, but he’s stood down. My bad.)

6. Boris Johnson????

Okay, now we’re really dreaming, but… There is a chance – not a huge one but a chance – that the Prime Minister himself might lose his seat. The MRP has Johnson on between 41 and 57 per cent of the vote in Uxbridge & South Ruislip. Labour’s Ali Milani, a 26-year-old who came to the UK from Iran at the age of five, is between 32 and 48 per cent.

It is fairly unlikely that Milani will become the first MP in history ever to unseat a sitting Prime Minister. It is also not impossible. And, God. Just imagine Johnson’s face if it happened.

7. It’ll all be over soon

It probably won’t. Odds are, Johnson will remain not just an MP, but Prime Minister, too, and probably with more MPs than he had even before he started kicking them out of his party in a fit of pique. The odds are that Thursday will not be a good night for Labour, or Remainers, or the broader left.

But whatever happens, this ghastly, election, which like trench warfare has somehow combined being terrifying with being utterly, crushingly, tedious, will finally be over.

And then we can all relax and enjoy Christmas and catch our breath before the next one.

Which, if we’re all very lucky and the Tories lose their majority, could plausibly be some time next spring.

Godspeed, everyone.

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