There will be acres of analysis and exploration to do within these results – ConservativeHome will of course contribute to that effort – but one thing is already clear: the electoral map of Britain has been redrawn. There are glimmers of opportunity even in seats the Conservatives did not gain, hints of challenges that the Party must address if it hopes to make this result lasting, major jobs of work to do to deliver overdue reforms like boundary changes and the abolition of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, major tasks of governing to begin and, not least, the work of getting Brexit done. But we should dwell a little on what has just happened: the Red Wall has crumbled, Corbynism is on the back foot following years of confidence, and the Conservatives have secured their first sizeable majority in over 30 years.
It’s official: the Conservatives have now secured a majority in the House of Commons. We’re officially on 340 seats declared for the Tories so far, and the BBC is projecting an eventual result of 363 seats for the Conservatives and 203 for Labour.
I noted earlier that the big challenge from day one for many of these new Conservative MPs who have won traditionally Labour seats is how to convert their constituencies from marginals to large majorities. It strikes me the first person they should talk to is Lee Rowley. He gained North East Derbyshire in 2017 by 2,861 votes, becoming the first Tory MP there since the 1930s. Just two and half years later he has been re-elected with a majority of 12,876. Similarly, Ben Bradley was Mansfield’s first ever Conservative MP on a 1,000 vote majority in 2017, and is now sitting on a majority of 16,000. If these new MPs can learn from that experience and replicate it successfully, that would go a long way to making this realignment permanent.
Meanwhile, having kept diplomatically quiet during his mid-campaign visit to the UK, Donald Trump has spoken. Or, tweeted, rather:
As part of a generally bad night for Remain and second referendum campaigners, Dominic Grieve has fallen far short in Beaconsfield. He was hyped up as the best hope among the former Conservative independents, but in the event Joy Morrissey held his former seat with more than half the vote while Grieve only scored 29 per cent. Elsewhere, Sarah Wollaston failed to win Totnes for the Liberal Democrats, Phillip Lee was defeated by John Redwood in Wokingham, and Anna Soubry came a distant third in Broxtowe.
Jo Swinson has lost her seat, by 150 votes. The Conservative vote in her constituency held up well, with over 7,000 votes. So Boris Johnson, who held Uxbridge and South Ruislip, has seen off the leaders of both main opposition parties.
In another blow to Labour in their former heartlands, Laura Pidcock, the Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights, who was tipped to be a Corbynite contender in the Labour leadership or deputy leadership contest, has lost North West Durham to the Conservatives’ Richard Holden.
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Islington count was just described by Hilary Benn as “dignified”, but frankly it seemed anything but. In a familiar refrain, he attacked the media for criticising his leadership and his party, blamed Brexit for disrupting his agenda, and echoed the words of his outriders in trying to argue that Corbynism is actually really popular. There was no sign of humility or admission of responsibility, though he did announce he will not contest another election as leader.
As if to underscore the scale of what has happened to Labour on his watch, the Conservatives continued their march through the Tees valley by gaining Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s former constituency. Even as historic Labour strongholds like Don Valley are falling, Labour feels like it is a long way from confronting the reasons for their losses.
The gains keep coming – including both West Bromwich seats, Redcar, Heywood and Middleton, Ynys Mon, Hyndburn, Bridgend and Scunthorpe.
We’ve also now welcomed our first new MPs in seats which were already Tory-held, where the incumbents have departed. Saqib Bhatti is elected in Meriden, while Nicky Aiken fought off Chuka Umunna’s challenge in Cities of London and Westminster. Cherilyn Mackrory holds Truro and Falmouth for the Conservatives. And Ruth Edwards succeeds Ken Clarke in Rushcliffe.
The recriminations are well underway within Labour, and are already taking an interesting shape. The Corbynite starting position, as embodied by John McDonnell, Jon Lansman and Owen Jones, were quick to say this was entirely about Brexit. The possibility that it might be about the leader or the Labour Party’s shift to the left cannot be contemplated. In mirror image, the Remainers like Alastair Campbell are out to say it ‘s entirely about Corbyn, and if there’s any reflection on Brexit it’s that Labour wasn’t Remain enough. Caroline Flint, Gloria de Piero and others have suggested it might be about both Brexit and Corbyn, but it doesn’t seem like either faction is interested in listening.
The conflict is set to intensify, with several connotations. First, Corbynites have a strong motivation to go all in against the Remain/Second Referendum position – Labour will likely be weakened as an anti-Brexit force. Second, the big question will be if they feel the need to sacrifice Corbyn himself in order to protect their wider agenda. Ash ‘Literally a Communist’ Sarkar has already said that “the project is socialism, not Corbynism”, which does not bode well for the Dear Leader. Various ambitious Shadow Cabinet members might not view a vacancy as a bad thing, of course.
Some of the results coming in represent a step by step progress up the Tory target list: Darlington, Wrexham, Peterborough, Clwyd South. But there are also some wildcards – Leigh, Andy Burnham’s old seat, was held by Labour with a majority over 10,000 votes in 2017, has fallen to the Conservatives. This is not one of those seats where the Tory vote has held steady and Labour collapsed, the Tories put on 4,500 votes. If the target seat gains continue, and you add in some surprises like that then might – whisper it – might it be possible that the seat total ends up higher than expected in the exit poll?
Vale of Clwyd has been regained by James Davies, who gained it in 2015 then lost it in 2017. What’s interesting is that this is a gain on an almost level Conservative vote – Davies put on about 200 votes, but Labour lost 4,000.
And we’ve just suffered the first losses of the night. To Labour in Putney:
And to the SNP in Angus:
Those losses are reminders that even if the Conservatives do secure a majority, it’s an election in which we’re seeing churn in seats, not just one-way traffic.
And Marcus Jones is back in Nuneaton with a nine per cent swing to him.
The shuffle will feature “minor adjustments”, ConservativeHome is told – to replace Nicky Morgan at Culture, who has stood down for this election, and Alun Cairns at Wales. “This is the Cabinet to deliver Brexit.”
There will then be a further, bigger shuffle post-January 31. The EU Withdrawal Bill is now expected next Friday, with a Budget in March.
Labour’s internal briefing for media appearances this evening.
We gave five reasons in November why a Conservative-Brexit Party pact would be a bad idea.
- It would be hard to deliver on the ground.
- There would be a row between the two parties over which seats which party should contest.
- There is no automatic transfer of votes from one to the other. (So there is no proof and there almost certainly can’t be that the Brexit Party prevented the Conservatives from winning in Sunderland South, for example.)
- Any Brexit Party voters won at one end would risk being offset by losses to anti-Brexit Party voters at the other.
- “It would be odd, if one disagrees with a party over a core policy, to campaign in alliance with it. Johnson favours his deal. Farage supports No Deal.”
“A party that has seen off Lloyd George, Arthur K Chesterton, Christopher Brockleback-Fowler, Paul Nuttall and Nick Clegg really ought to be capable of seeing off Farage too,” we wrote. That call sounds not too bad as we write.
We have the first actual results.
It is hard to find the rights words to describe what this Tory gain represents. The best we can do is say that it’s as though the Labour Party had won East Surrey.
Would the Brexit Party votes have gone to Christopher Howarth, the Conservative candidate, had it not stood a candidate of its own?
If (again) the exit poll is right, here are seven questions.
- Will a large majority encourage Boris Johnson to pursue a harder Brexit (because he will have the numbers to outvote the Opposition) or a softer one (because he might have the numbers to ignore the ERG)?
- What happens in relation to a second Independence referendum in Scotland, if anything?
- Will Johnson conduct a big-scale Cabinet reshuffle now…or after January 31…or not at all?
- What becomes of the internal balance of the Conservative Parliamentary Party – does it now become a more northern, less liberal, populist interventionist statist-leaning party?
- Do the Liberal Democrats now became the out-and-out party of Rejoin?
- Is there space “to the right” of the Conservatives for a recast Brexit Party?
- What happens to Labour?
If the BBC’s exit poll is right:
- The Conservatives will gain their best result since 1987.
- Labour will have their worst result since 1935.
- The Liberal Democrats will lose seats net on their pre-election number.
- The SNP will sweep Scotland – prepare for a further battle over a second independence referendum.
- Oh, and…the British people have voted to “Get Brexit Done”.
BBC exit poll:
Liberal Democrats: 13
Plaid Cymru: 3
That would mean a Tory majority of 86.
How far out could the poll be?
Paul Goodman blogging.
Tonight’s general election has been fought in three battlegrounds. Scotland. The Midlands and North. And what we call Remainia – London and its relatively well-off hinterland. (This is a very crude picture, and doesn’t take into other big areas such as the South-West, but it serves a purpose.)
Perhaps 20 per cent of the electorate has voted by post. One CCHQ estimate is that as many as 25 per cent of voters will have made up their minds on the day; a pollster estimate is that this figure will be nearer 10 per cent.
In very broad terms, ConHome hears that the main parties agree that London has been bad for the Conservatives and the rest of provincial England good. One account held that Labour is “bullish”, the Tories “quietly confident”…and of course there has been no opinion poll herding.
The consensus view as close of polls loom is that the Conservatives will win a majority. But the consensus has been wrong before. What about tactical voting? Differential turnout? Turnout itself? The parties’ ground game? Last minute swing?
Which famous names will lose their seats this evening? What of Jo Swinson’s leadership? The future of Nigel Farage? How many votes will Dominic Grieve, David Gauke and Anne Milton get? What will happen in Scotland and Wales – and Northern Ireland? Not long to go now until we all find out.