Connect’s Top 10 Moments of Polling Day Night
At Connect HQ we were up all night watching the results come in. Our David Button takes a look at the 10 key moments of the night… Not necessarily in chronological order (and not including Boris).
1. The Exit Poll is launched…
A nation shouted in unison that it could not be right, could it? Paddy Ashdown even said he’d eat his hat…
2. The Exit Poll turns out to be startlingly accurate…
Let’s face it, none of us saw that coming. While it wasn’t exactly accurate, Prof. John Curtice and his team defied all opinion polls, and all predictions. The SNP rampaged through Scotland (more on this later), the Lib Dems were devastated, and the Conservatives marched towards a small majority. Unbelievable.
Presumably Paddy Ashdown now has indigestion?
While it was widely expected that the SNP would make significant gains in Scotland, taking 56 of the 59 seats is a spectacular result – so much so that even Nicola Sturgeon said that the Exit Poll’s predictions should be taken with a pinch of salt.
The most impressive thing about the SNP’s success in Scotland is the level of swing they achieved. When compared to the benchmark for an unbelievable swing (17.6% from Conservative to Labour in Enfield Southgate in 1997), the SNP achieved miracles: in Glasgow North East, Labour’s safest Labour seat, they achieved a 39% swing. That’s a record that may never be beaten, and broke the BBC’s Swingometer:
Meanwhile, for all the talk of Scotland being the death of Labour, even if Labour had held all of their 40 Scottish seats they would still be trailing behind the Conservatives. England, not Scotland failed Labour.
4. The Conservative Majority
Just as we were preparing ourselves for another five years of hung parliament and coalitions, the unthinkable happens. Theories will no doubt fly around about what led to this unexpected result, whether it be genuine fear of uncertainty, the SNP or Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, but the fact is that David Cameron has become the first Prime Minister to increase the number of seats his party has since Margaret Thatcher in 1983. That is no mean feat: since 2010 Cameron had disappointed Conservative modernisers – his remarkable electoral success undoes all that. Lord Ashcroft may be hurriedly re-writing his biography of the Prime Minister.
5. The UKIP Disappointment
For all their bluster, UKIP will return to Parliament with 1 MP, the former Conservative, Douglas Carswell, who was always likely to keep Clacton, but with a significantly smaller majority. With Nigel Farage failing to take South Thanet, and his impending resignation as Leader of UKIP, politics is going to be slightly less rambunctious. The Marquis of Granby pub around the corner from UKIP HQ (and Connect’s) will see far fewer interviews taking place outside it from now on.
As predicted UKIP did well in terms of votes and finishing second. The myth that UKIP is a party that takes votes solely from the Conservatives must be ended well and truly now, with Labour and the Lib Dems suffering significantly from the new alternative party of opposition.
6. The End of the Liberal Democrats?
So is the Liberal Democrat party as we know it dead and buried? While Nick Clegg just about held his seat, the party now survives on life support with just 8 or 9 MPs – a strange group of Orange Bookers and Awkward Squadies. Nick’s resignation as leader was humble and his speech was a definite call for the party to continue along the Liberal path, rather than veering left. For the next leader, be it Tim Farron or Norman Lamb, the task will be to hold together this small (entirely male) group, dig in locally, and try to rebuild. Before the election most pundits suggested that the Lib Dems were the most likely party to be in government after the election. Now it’s unlikely they’ll be back for a generation.
As Nick himself said , history will look back more kindly on the Liberal Democrats in government than the voting public did last night. That will be of little consolation to the large number of Liberal Democrat MPs, researchers and caseworkers who now find themselves unemployed.
7. Douglas Alexander
The first big scalp of the General Election was, ironically, the Chair of the Labour election campaign, Douglas Alexander in Paisley and Renfrewshire South. Losing a 16,614 majority to anyone is galling, to lose it to a 20-year-old who will become the youngest MP since Charles James Fox in 1768 aged 19 is remarkable. That aside, the new ‘Baby of the House’ ran an excellent campaign and deserves a great deal of praise.
8. Vince Cable
Of all the Lib Dem casualties on the night this was the most surprising (we all saw Danny Alexander’s coming). While the Conservatives had been looking at Twickenham for 2020, few would have predicted that Vince would fall this time around. The veteran Lib Dem looked devastated, barely hiding his sorrow as the result was declared.
His defeat could have major repercussions now that Nick Clegg has resigned as leader, with Vince not only seen as a possible contender but also a possible barrier to Tim Farron’s inevitable challenge. He’ll undoubtedly be offered a Peerage at the earliest opportunity and, despite growing tensions between himself and the party leadership, his experience will be sorely missed.
9. Esther McVey
The first, and only, major Conservative scalp taken overnight, the former Employment Minister and TV presenter was Labour’s first gain outside of London at the election. Highly rated by the party, but often criticised for her performances in office and on television, she brought a little glamour (and a female from the regions) to the Conservative frontbench. Her association with Tory welfare policy, and the personal animus against her, could encourage the Conservatives to soften their tone – something Cameron hinted at when referring to reclaiming the mantle of One Nation Conservatism.
10. Ed Balls
In truth this wasn’t as difficult a win as many suggest for the Conservatives – Ed B had a majority of just 1,101 in 2010 and his popularity in the area is questionable: Labour’s majorities in the two precursor seats were more than 10,000 in 2005.
His defeat was emblematic of Labour’s inability to win over England at the polls. Had Labour performed well enough to be in a position to form a government he would likely have been given the chance to test his credibility as Chancellor. In the end, his defeat will only have made David Cameron’s night all the sweeter – his least favourite member of the Opposition gone on the day he wins a majority.
And to top all of that, politicos across the country will now have to find something else to tweet about on April 28.