Thursday, 8 June 2017

General Election Live Blog

So we can be pretty clear now what all of this means. The Tories took a gamble and lost. They shouldn't have lost. They contrived to lose. They however stay in government for the moment at least as a minority government. They will be able to do deals to get legislation through but the price of those deals may not be acceptable to many Tory MPs. Theresa May is responsible for that.

Constitutionally she stays in place unless she decides to quit or unless she loses a vote of confidence in the House of Commons. But she is diminished and she has lost her majority.

Most Tories will want her to go. I certainly do. She ran an appalling campaign that allowed Labour under a Marxist half wit close to power. Whenever there is another election they could easily win now. That is Theresa May's fault.

The problem is how we manage this. She needs to be replaced but how to accomplish that with Brexit on the agenda. And the government will be very unstable and thus prone to collapsing and another election being forced. Tories cannot go into another election with Theresa May as leader.

Conversations need to be had and some kind of deal done. But Theresa May's position is now untenable. She should go and hand over to a caretaker.

It looks like we are going to have a hung parliament. It's not yet official, there are still plenty of seats to be counted, but we can be pretty clear that that is what is going to happen.

This means a number of things. The Tories can govern. Chauncey's talk that Theresa May should resign and allow him to take over is nonsense. He has done very well. Astonishingly well. It boggles the mind actually how well he has done, but then that's what pork barrel politics does for you. But he hasn't got anything approaching a majority and cannot cobble one together either. The Tories are still the only party capable of doing that.

It means however that dreams of a five year period of stability are over. Brexit can still happen and the deal can be negotiated but getting it through parliament is going to be next to impossible. Don't be at all surprised now if it never happens.

Theresa May will have to continue as PM too because there is no alternative, unless of course the party can decide on a replacement for her without a leadership contest. There simply isn't time for that. But the difficulty is that the Tories need someone to lead the country and lead negotiations with the EU. They also need a new leader to take them into the next election, an election that may well happen within months.

Finally, according to Peter Kellner, the Tory vote share is likely to end up around 44%. That is perfectly respectable, even impressive. It means that the Tory vote share has remained broadly stable throughout the campaign period, according to the polls. What happened is that we returned to two party politics and there was a huge turnout for Labour, especially amongst young people and students.  How long that lasts remains to be seen but it means that the Tories cannot risk a campaign as bad as this again. At some point soon they need to find a way to replace Theresa May.

The two pals of the coalition, Nick Clegg and David Cameron are now no longer either in government or even in parliament. Clegg has just lost his seat in Sheffield Hallam. The Lib Dems have somewhat fancifully been saying that they would not enter into a coalition with anyone. Now of course the chances are that they wouldn't be asked and that they wouldn't be able to make much of a contribution. But you do have to wonder what the point of a party that has no chance of actually winning an election is if they rule out being involved in coalitions. Clearly the British people have largely come to the same conclusion hence the fact that except in Scotland and one or two isolated pockets of London (Vince Cable is back) they are once again suffering a bad night. They may end up with the same number of seats. But this was supposed to be the beginning of their fightback. As it is it is Vince Cable's fightback. The next leader of the Lib Dems? Tim Farron may be about to lose his seat.

The psephologists have been revising their numbers in the light of results and, as expected, the Tory number of seats is creeping up. I am now confident of a small majority. But a very small one. No landslide as we had every right to expect given a half competent campaign.

Boris has been re-elected and made a guarded but significant speech telling the country that Tories need to listen. Yes they do. To young people in particular. But also to Tory voters who got ignored.

If there is a pattern emerging tonight, and maybe it will emerge when there are more results or at the end of the night, it is that Labour are doing very well in urban areas, particularly in London. London has swung quite heavily in their direction. The Tories are doing better the further north you go, have held on in Nuneaton already and some other midland swing constituncies. They are also doing extremely well in Scotland at the expense of the SNP, although ironically in some cases this is just handing power to Labour. The SNP may actually be the biggest losers of the night in some ways, assuming the Tories manage to scrape a majority. Their dreams of another independence referendum may be at an end on this result. We did say we had gone well past peak Nat.

The results in Scotland show what can be achieved with a good and charismatic leader who comes across well and isn't afraid to throw herself into the fray. Ruth Davidson might have a shout to be the next national leader if she was an MP. As it is the odds are narrowing on Boris being the next leader. If Theresa May, as looks likely, only scrapes a majority or loses one and has to cobble together a deal then she is toast. Boris would be the best alternative. He would have won this election as those of us who initially backed him last year said all along. He reaches the parts other politicians (other than Ruth Davidson) cannot reach.

If this is an election that is being decided in a big way by a huge turnout of younger voters for Labour then this is in many ways a positive thing if you believe in democracy. Of course from a Labour perspective it will be even better if the Tories sneak in making those younger voters angry. If Labour get in they will inevitably disappoint those younger voters. Given the absurdity of Labour promises and of their bad maths they might have been disappointed to the point of never voting again.

The Tories have to learn from this debacle. First, don't put the party in the hands of someone so catastrophically bad at campaigning. Chauncey was appalling at giving broadcast interviews and no good in the debates, but he was good at talking to people who agree with him at rallies. It gave his campaign momentum.

The Tories on the other hand got more or less every part of this campaign wrong. They kept their best performers out of the spotlight preferring May who was terrible at it. They got the policy offer wrong and abandoned core voters in a grab for Labour voters who weren't up for grabs. They abandoned their core constituency and are paying the price.

But they also need to start making the arguments for Conservative policies and philosophy again. They have failed to do that. It's not as if they lacked a good argument and indeed even had one on students. But they couldn't or wouldn't make it.

There is also an issue surrounding housing. That has to be addressed and urgently. It is a clear market failure. It is something that has been neglected for too long.

Just after midnight and the picture is changing all the time. I think it is safe to say now that this one is going to be very difficult to predict and we are going to be here all night. There are going to be big regional variations with Tories doing better in some areas and less well in others. The other big factor is Brexit. There are some areas where there is a swing to Labour and other areas where there is a swing to the Tories.

The other factor is that turnout is up and younger voters have turned out, particularly students having received their promise of a bribe in the abolition of tuition fees, however impractical, unaffordable and socially unnecessary it might be. So much for social justice eh.

On the back of this Labour have done well. Much better than anyone expected. This despite the big holes in their finances, the idiocies of their front bench and the appalling past of many of them. It means that Chauncey and co have control of the Labour Party and now they are not going to be removed.

It also means that this has to concentrate minds in the Conservative Party. Labour was there for the taking and Theresa May fluffed it. Even if she sneaks over the line her days are numbered. I have stayed silent during the campaign but now we can say it. She was right to call the election but the way she ran it was incompetent, lacklustre, and arrogant. Everything is up for grabs now.

You know, I get the impression that this exit poll might not be as accurate as we might have assumed. It's still very early days and we've only had a couple of results both in safe Labour seats but it's not been as bad for the Tories as the exit poll suggested. Indeed it could be seen as positive for the Tories to some extent if they are going to have the more limited ambition of achieving a majority.

I suspect that is what is going to happen. How big a majority remains to be seen and how damaged the PM is after this is something we will discuss tomorrow. But I doubt that we are going to have a hung parliament.

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