Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
Oh, how I enjoyed presenting LBC’s election coverage. It was one of the most exciting election nights of my life. I write this at 8am, having just returned to my hotel. I’ve had no sleep in 26 hours, so forgive me if this doesn’t make much sense. Where do I start? I think I’ll just make 20 observations.
- My “Portillo” moment wasn’t Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander or Ed Davey. It was Vince Cable. I didn’t cheer on air because that would have been unprofessional. But I did punch the air.
- Having said that, I did feel a twinge of remorse when I heard about David Laws, Jo Swinson and Lynne Featherstone.
- I can’t go through all of the losses on the Labour side, but some good people lost. Tom Harris, in particular, is a loss to Parliament.
- And on the Tory side? My biggest regret is Nick de Bois. To be beaten by the expenses cheat Joan Ryan must be a bitter pill to swallow. He’s a great guy and I hope he will bounce back.
- Credit to Lynton Crosby. He stuck to his plan and it worked. All of us who doubted the strategy have egg on our collective face.
- Not as much as the pollsters though. How on earth did they get it so wrong? Most of us doubted the exit poll, but it wasn’t that far out, was it?
- Labour seems to be blaming David Cameron for the rise of the SNP. Incredible. No. It started when Tony Blair let the devolution genie out of the bottle. It continued with Labour taking its vote in Scotland for granted, and culminated in the terrible Better Together campaign. This is a problem of their own making and it’s about time someone said it.
- Chuka Umunna was uncharacteristically quiet on election night. He wasn’t to be seen anywhere. Lost his voice? Can’t think why.
- We may be seeing the return of traditional two party politics in England.
- Nigel Farage’s result isn’t in yet, but many sources tell me he has come third. He will now presumably deliver on his promise to resign. Cue a UKIP leadership bloodbath. The ferrets will be in the sack by the end of the evening.
- The Tories have never had so many seats in Wales. That’s thanks in large part to the work of their former national director, Matthew Lane, who now works at CCHQ.
- Tweet of the night goes to Claire Perry. “Hallelujah. Mark Reckless out. Don’t let the door shut on your fat a**e.”
- Ed Balls and Jim Murphy get the prize for most gracious concession speeches.
- Dan Jarvis. Your time has come.
- Norman Lamb v Tim Farron for the Lib Dems
- Suzanne Evans v Paul Nuttall v Patrick O’Flynn v Stephen Woolfe for UKIP.
- Sorry, Boris. You have five years to wait.
- I’ll see how much egg I have on my face regarding my own seat-by-seat predictions. I owe a few people some apologies. But at least I had the balls to put my neck on the line. Still smarting a bit though.
- What money on Boris for Foreign Secretary? Nah. Theresa May. Handed the poisoned chalice of EU renegotiation.
- David Cameron. It’s your victory. You’ve never been stronger. Congratulations. Be bold in your Cabinet appointments and reward some of your 1997, 2001 and 2005 footsoldiers in the junior ranks too. It’s the right thing to do.
It’s now 8.30am. I’m done in. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
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Party leaders say some very odd things. Ed Miliband was interviewed by my LBC colleague Theo Usherwood on the last day of campaigning and was very keen to explain his priorities as Prime Minister. He said he wouldn’t be thinking of hedge fund managers every day, “I’d be thinking of your family.” I’m sure Theo and his wife were very touched.
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It is already clear that thousands of people have been denied their democratic right to vote through the incompetence of various local authority electoral registration departments. They only have one thing to get right, and that is to conduct an election every five years. In Hackney, 3,000 postal votes weren’t sent out. The same thing has happened in Barnet, where there are two key marginal seats. The councils blame the new IER system of voter registration. Typical. Always pass the blame on to someone else. I remember the days when councils actually ran elections competently. We didn’t have an Electoral Commission in those days. Perhaps if it were abolished, our system of electoral administration might actually improve. Something for a majority Conservative Government. Oh look, here’s one along in just a minute!
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So who have been the stars of this election campaign? I’ve tried to pick five but in fact I’ve only come up with two – Nicola Sturgeon and Andrew Neil. I can’t think of a single Tory, Lib Dem or Labour politician who I could say has unreservedly covered themselves with glory. Having said that, I could think of plenty who haven’t.
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Oh dear, it would seem wrong of me not to return to the subject of Mr Benjamin Harris-Quinney. For new readers, Mr H-Q and I have history. Google us if you’re interested. Mr Harris-Quinney has single-handedly brought the Bow Group into disrepute over the last couple of years. He has transformed a much respected Conservative Party-supporting think-tank/pressure group into an organisation nobody apart from his diminishing band of admirers has any time for. He’s used it to trash the Conservative Party at every available opportunity and covertly provide succour for UKIP. Harris-Quinney hasn’t been a Conservative for some time, and I am told didn’t go to last year’s Tory conference but did go to UKIP’s. Draw your own conclusions.
Now, though, BHQ has surpassed himself by authoring a so-called Bow Group paper which urges Conservatives in hopeless seats to vote UKIP. This was released only a few days before election day. Never able to refuse an opportunity to put the knife into the Conservative Party, he accepted an invitation to appear on the Daily Politics to explain himself. Owhaddamistake. He was spit-roasted by Andrew Neil and Michael Heseltine, and it wasn’t pretty. He ended up gulping like an out-of-breath goldfish. Rarely have I seen anyone skewered so beautifully. Andrew Neil called him a Walter Mitty character, something he rejected even though he professed not to know what that meant. It doesn’t make for pretty viewing, but here is the full interview for your delight and delectation.
Every single patron of the Bow Group has now denounced Harris-Quinney. Surely to God he ought to have the good grace to fall on his sword and resign. And if he doesn’t, surely the Bow Group Council should convene a meeting to remove him. And if they don’t, the patrons shouldn’t just denounce Harris-Quinney, they should resign in protest.
How this narcissistic fantasist has ever been allowed to get control of the Bow Group and use it to promote his own personal agenda is a question which I cannot answer. He should be sacked, and not before time.