GENERAL ELECTION 2019: A Night to Remember with Otto English
Our Liveblog will cover all events which we can of this momentous General Election. Keep coming back for timed updates from Otto English and the Byline Times Team.
So here we go people. We’re minutes away. After weeks of the most dispiriting General Election in modern times the polling stations are about to close.
Turnout is predicted to be high and expect some upsets, surprises and downright weirdness in the hours ahead.
Portillo moments? High-profile figures including Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, as well as Iain Duncan Smith, Dominic Raab and even… a certain Boris de Pfeffel Johnson could potentially lose their seats.
In East Devon, local campaigner Lib Dem Claire Wright could become the first non-Tory MP in 150 years.
And will John Redwood – MP for Wokingham since 1987 – be another casualty of the night?
We’ll be looking not just at unfolding events but the other stuff like lost Brexit Party deposits – and the number of times Mark Francois tries to gate-crash proceedings.
Any insights or tip offs email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Exit Poll forecasts a Conservative majority, with the Tories securing 368 seats, Labour 191, the SNP 55, and the Lib Dems 13.
The exit poll is predicting an 86 seat majority for the Conservatives – up 50 on the 2017 General Election. If borne out in the results tonight, this will be the biggest majority for the Tories since Margaret Thatcher won in 1987.
How accurate is the exit poll? There is a margin of error and it called both 2015 and 2017 wrong, but a predicted majority of 30 or more is generally considered to be game over for a hung Parliament and this figure sits 56 seats above that.
This is looking like a huge win for Boris Johnson and an absolute catastrophe for Labour and the lingering hopes of Remain Britain. If the exit poll is accurate, this will be the lowest number of predicted Labour seats since 1935.
A Tory majority is now looking like a dead cert.
This is a disaster for Remain and a huge failure by the Lib Dems – whose leader Jo Swinson is currently predicted to lose her own seat and hold on to just 13 others. Putting her at the forefront of this General Election campaign has turned out to be a disaster and her political life looks to be finished.
But, Labour is the big story here. If the polls are correct the party has been annihilated and this is a political failure on an epic scale. Jeremy Corbyn’s prevarication over Brexit and his unwillingness to take a clear line on the biggest issue of the day has spelled disaster for his party. His manifesto and his throwback promises to renationalise utilities and the railways has apparently turned voters off in their millions.
The only winner of the night – apart from Boris Johnson – currently looks to be Nicola Sturgeon. Her SNP are on course to make a potential clean sweep in Scotland and that could have massive ramifications for the Union. With those numbers, a second independence referendum is highly likely. A SNP majority in Scotland, coupled with a highly enabled Conservative majority able to push through Brexit, could spell disaster and the end of the UK as we know it.
Michael Gove has tonight ruled out the possibility of allowing Scotland a second referendum on ITV News, but the pressure on the Conservatives from north of the border is now game on.
Nigel Farage, claiming victory for his part in the predicted Conservative landslide, has confirmed to the BBC’s Andrew Neil that the days of the Brexit Party are probably over. While seemingly pleased to have helped deliver the projected win for the Tories, he simultaneously claimed to have spoiled his ballot paper because “I couldn’t bring myself to vote Tory”.
Farage hinted that he wasn’t expecting any wins for the party he set up earlier this year and intends to rename it the Reform Party. He has confirmed that he will be touring the US as Donald Trump’s ‘warm up man’ as the US President travels the country in the run up to the 2020 Presidential Election.
The Brexit Party candidates who have stood in good faith look set to be abandoned by Farage as he moves on to his next project. Many look likely to lose their deposits which have come out of their own pockets.
Still, as long as you’re alright Nigel.
The first three results have been declared with Labour holding on to Newcastle Central with a majority of 12,278 and Houghton and Sunderland with a greatly reduced majority.
But, the big shock has come in the former mining community of Blyth Valley – Labour held since 1950 and a safe seat where a Labour majority of 8,000 has been overturned with a Tory win. That Labour could lose a constituency like Blyth Valley to the Conservatives seems almost unimaginable. This is a devastating blow to the party and Jeremy Corbyn’s epitaph.
How has this happened?
As the exit polls came in and the scale of the projected Tory win hit home, a devastated John McDonnell told the BBC: “I think people did want to get Brexit done”. And it would seem that the Conservative win is undoubtedly down to the party having taken a clear and unwavering position on Brexit. By hammering home “Get Brexit Done”, Johnson has apparently picked up millions of votes from people who are sick and tired of three years of dithering.
But this victory could soon come back to bite the Tories on the backside. Johnson looks soon to be in an unenviable position. He will have complete ownership of Brexit. There will be nobody else to blame but himself and his party. And there is no such thing as “Get Brexit Done”.
Yes, the UK now looks set to leave the EU on 31 January, but it will then enter a transition period that could last for two years or more. That period will be followed by potentially years of negotiations with other countries. The UK currently enjoys an additional 70 free trade deals with another 40 countries thanks to our membership of the EU – and Britain will now be going it alone.
I don’t wish to be the Ghost of Christmas yet to come – but Boris Johnson’s parliamentary majority might come back to haunt him.
More bad news from the regions.
Allegations of voter fraud have been made in Scotland with one complaint at the Stirling count now being in the hands of police. But, other than that, this looks to be a good night for Nicola Sturgeon who has widely been applauded for her effective and steadfast campaign. The SNP are looking to wipe out Labour in Scotland and perhaps take every seat.
Meanwhile, in Wales – once a Labour heartland – the Tories appear to be making huge inroads. The Vale of Clwyd and Bridgend, both Labour since 1987, and Wrexham, which has been Labour since 1935, look set to be lost.
In the Midlands, Gareth Snell – the defending Labour MP for Stoke on Trent Central – has already conceded that he thinks he will lose his seat. With one brief interruption in 1931, this seat has been Labour since the First World War. That the Conservative Party is making gains in solid working-class areas like this to the detriment of Labour simply beggars belief. Stoke on Trent was a target seat for UKIP in the Paul Nuttall years but now looks set to go Tory.
Across social media and the rolling coverage, even as the good ship Corbyn sinks beneath the waves, supporters of the Labour leader are holding steadfast. Labour Shadow Chancellor has said it is “too early” for himself and Corbyn to make a decision about their future as leaders of the party.
The Tories are now a blue collar party with a blue blooded leadership.
Boris Johnson – an old Etonian, Bullingdon Club boy and descendant of King George II – finds himself heading up a party that looks set to gain power thanks to working-class, traditionally Labour regions turning Conservative.
And with that comes a whole set of problems.
Having won these new voters, Johnson and his party will be obliged to keep them sweet or face losing these gains at the next general election.
For many in the north and west, a Brexit vote was informed not so much on the issue of the EU, but by a perceived disparity between the regions and London and the south east. Will a Johnson Government really redress that balance? How will this new Government tackle social and economic problems that blight places like Stoke on Trent or the Welsh valleys when many of their problems have been created or made worse by Tory austerity?
There’s also another problem. Brexit, when it comes, will hit these regions hard. Many farms in Wales have relied on EU subsidies for decades and, although the Government has promised to replace CAP payments with a new system, it is not clear how much money will be available. Unless Johnson can get a trade deal akin to EU membership there’s a high chance that the cost of basic foods and products, imported from the European Union, will go up. Such hikes will hit the pockets of poorer communities harder than anyone else.
How long will Old Labour stay blue?
This is like watching the last of the Dodos getting hunted down by hungry sailors’ dogs. It’s brutal. North east Labour seats like Darlington have lost to the Tories, with a massive swing. Workington, a Labour seat, bar one tiny blip for 100 years, has gone blue.
The scale of the carnage looks set to continue and it is on such a scale that, as we enter the early hours, it’s increasingly hard to imagine how Labour comes back from it. By turning up the hard socialist dial at every failure, the party under Jeremy Corbyn has alienated millions of voters and driven them into the arms of Boris Johnson.
The Corbyn years have been an exercise in folly and self-destruction. I am struggling for a metaphor but here goes.
On 25 October 1854, Lord Cardigan led a futile charge at the Battle of Balaclava that became known as the Charge of the Light Brigade. As the forces were decimated by cannon fire in a pointless attack, the French General Pierre Bosquet turned to his English counterpart and said: C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie (“It is magnificent, but it is not war: it is madness”).
The collapse of Corbyn’s Red Wall has certainly not been magnifique – but the causes of it are proving to be folly of a similar magnitude.
I don’t know about you, but I need a whisky.
A few fragments of hope to cling to for Remain and progressive types as the results trickle in. Canterbury, which was taken from the Tories in the 2017 General Election, has returned Rosie Duffield and there has been a Labour gain in Putney. In north Belfast, Nigel Dodds, the Westminster leader of the DUP, has lost his seat to Sinn Fein.
But this is like looking for a silver lining in a black bin liner in a dark room on a moonless night.
Further Conservative gains have emerged in solid Labour strongholds such as Blackpool, Scunthorpe, Wolverhampton, and Redcar which was 135th on the Tory target list.
Jeremy Corbyn has arrived at the count for his Islington seat looking remarkably chipper and happy. Does he know something we don’t? Or is he looking forward to retirement on his allotment? Jess Phillips has said she will not condemn him but is “utterly heartbroken” at the result, which shows that Labour has failed the British people.
The darkest hour is just before dawn.
As three a.m. crawled towards four, there was finally some good news for ‘Portillo moment’ fans. Zac Goldsmith was unseated, decisively beaten by the Lib Dems in Richmond Park. He had put in a huge amount of effort locally, making himself a much hated figure and his loss is well deserved.
Meanwhile, the attempt to unseat Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, came within a whisker but failed. Raab snuck back in with a majority that was slashed from 24,000 to a little over 3,000.
In Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected MP in a seat so solidly Labour that you could probably stand a gnome in it with a red rosette and win. In his exceptionally disingenuous winner’s speech, Corbyn sought to blame anyone and everyone else for his and his party’s abject failure. He blamed Brexit, the media, he blamed doubters and critics and people on social media – and in typical fashion he took no blame or responsibility himself. In the face of the worst Labour performance since George V was King, he defended his manifesto of “hope and unity” sounding very much like a tired tortoise, trying to remove a piece of lettuce from the back of his mouth. Or a slightly sarcastic Salvation Army volunteer handing out leaflets while rattling a tin.
The Conservative victory was down to Brexit, apparently. Yes Mr Corbyn, the issue on which you had singularly refused to take a clear line. But of course that wasn’t his fault. Here is a man one senses would blame other people for his sunburn even if he were stranded on a desert island 10,000 miles from the nearest human being. Corbyn is detached from the realities of 2019 – his time is up.
Thankfully J.C. made one valuable contribution to the morning. He promised not to lead the Labour Party into another general election, adding only that he would continue to steer it for the conceivable future.
Moments later, Boris Johnson turned up in Uxbridge with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds and that novelty dog in tow. Johnson took back his seat with a majority of 6,000. With Lord Buckethead and Elmo standing behind him, he repeated his catchphrase “Get Brexit Done” like the practised end of pier novelty act that he is, before promising to build all those hospitals and magic all those nurses out of thin air once more. Apparently Johnson plans to “unleash the potential of the entire people of this country”. I wonder how he will deliver on that.
And, almost as soon as he had left the stage, the news came in from Scotland that in Dunbartonshire East the Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson had lost her seat by just 149 votes to the SNP.
What a night – and not a good one for any of us who want a united, prosperous country that thrives and gets along with itself. The Lib Dem surge has been little more than a squeak from a disappointing whoppee cushion. But the real catastrophe has been the wholesale defenestration of Labour. A once great party reduced to a smouldering ruin by stubborn hardliners, an out-of-touch leadership and key figures who went out of their way to pick fights with the very people they should have been courting.
Something will rise out of this mess – and we will live to fight another day.