Big Ben, scaffolded up like a dribbling Hellraiser in a care home, made its final, artificial gong before the all too familiar exit poll. They almost drowned out the collective death wail of the Labour Party. If the polls were correct during a BBC presentation that had endured a CNN makeover (just without the remarkable plastic surgery), this was to be an historic Conservative landslide.
Wowee. Speculation swirled. Home Secretary Priti Patel clicked her Irregular Choices in glee. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell blamed Corbynism on everything but the actual man its named after. Somewhere, in Edinburgh, Sturgy Queen of Scots sparked a Silk Cut and let out a long, Lush bath bomb sigh.
Liberals didn’t. Many hoped that the polls were wrong. They can be wrong! Yes, they can be. But not this wrong. Unless pollsters were fresh from a stag do in Amnesia, the BBC’s predictions were accurate - and accurate it was. The Labour Party bled its heartlands to a new blue puddle. Boris Johnson’s promise of a new Brexit land of milk and money had cut through, and rightly or wrongly, it’s what the British public chose.
But what happened? And what happens next? It’s early days, granted, but here’s the rundown of the United Kingdom’s 2019 General Election. Prozac recommended.
As soon as Blyth Valley – a working class area north of Newcastle – was announced at around half 11, it was clear the Conservative strategy had paid off. For decades, a string of seats forever sending Labour candidates to parliament, had been targeted by Johnson under the sole Brexit banner: get it done. Constant news coverage and parliamentary stalemate had finally frustrated the country.
And like dominos, constituencies Labour has long taken advantage of, fell to Boris Johnson’s promise. If voters could settle for some Brexit, any Brexit, then it was done. No more spats over the dinner table. No more talks about trade deals that, really, no-one really understands. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party ate a lot of the vote too. And lest we forget: a majority of people voted for Brexit. If democracy is to be upheld, then it does need to be executed in some way, shape or form. Even the MP Dennis Skinner lost his seat. He’s been a Labour MP for 40 years. The ‘Beast of Bolsover’ was now in captivity.
You can blame Corbyn too, who proved divisive on the doorstep thanks to several scandals and a slow response to the cases of anti-semitism within his own ranks. The same for Labour’s delayed promise of a second referendum. And really, a lot of people simply do not like him.
A point of note, too: since its formation as a constituency in 1950, Blyth Valley has never voted for a Conservative. Ed Balls apportioned Labour’s loss to “a leader who didn’t command public trust and a manifesto that people feared was going to be expensive and difficult for them to deal with”. Then he continued to exchange smirks with George Osborne as if they’d once gone in flagrante at the ITV office Christmas bash.
She may’ve got the Hillary Clinton treatment as we saw in 2016. She may have been too big a fan of austerity back in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition days. Whatever the reason though, Jo Swinson’s rebrand of her centrist canary yellow party fell on its face – along with her majority.
As the SNP reclaimed Scotland once more, Swinson lost her Dunbartonshire East constituency by just 149 votes. Yes, gains were felt elsewhere. Zac Goldsmith lost his seat to the Liberal Democrats in Richmond. St. Alban’s turned yellow too. But when a major(ish) party loses its own leader, the political damage is catastrophic. The Liberal Democrats are in absolute bits. The SNP, meanwhile, are chanting ‘independence’ once more, this time around Swinson’s newly-claimed scalp. Sooner or later, Westminster may have to listen.
So the Conservatives have gained their best result since Margaret Thatcher. Crikey. That doesn’t automatically mean a hard Brexit, though. Among the slim numbers he inherited from Theresa May’s own goal, Johnson had to keep the European Research Group on-side: the hardline Brexiteers led by Westminster’s anti-abortion La-Z-Boy, Jacob Rees-Mogg. That is no longer the case. Our Prime Minister could perhaps negotiate a ‘softer’ Brexit, which means a slightly closer relationship with the European Union.
The Good Friday Agreement – a Tony Blair-led political milestone that secured peace in Ireland – was agreed upon the tenet that free movement existed inside Ireland with no hard border. Johnson’s proposed deal is a bit shaky on this. (Oh, Blair’s old seat of Sedgefield went blue too by the way.)
On the other hand, galvanised by a wet dream of Winston Churchill, Johnson could go hard, hard, hard blitz-attitude, let’s-all-eat-out-of-bins Brexit. In which case, tell your diabetic friends to stock up on their insulin.
Don’t tell them to get too excited about a boomerang Labour swing though. No party has ever recovered from such a loss in a single election cycle. If history repeats itself, then the Conservatives will remain in Number 10 for the foreseeable.
Labour have had a shocker, to put it politely. A slew of seats that haven’t voted Conservative for almost a century have fallen. Corbyn hasn’t connected, despite policies that have polled rather well, and Brexit dominated after three years of turmoil and terse exchanges with grandparents. The Labour leader has stated that he won’t lead his party into the next general election.
And the night’s winner has rebuilt the Conservative party in his own image, just as the Palace of Westminster is due a refurb. But it’s not alone. So too does Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. As does Big Ben. But, more importantly, repairs are urgently needed for the hearts and minds of liberals who thought, for once, that Labour’s gongs existed beyond ever-reddening London postcodes.
image credits | shutterstock