13 December 2019

General Election 2019

Cummings and goings

The night in politics: spread out the map – where didn’t it go wrong for Labour?

By Hannah Jane Parkinson

Well, I guess he better Get Brexit Done then. Or it’ll be the biggest complaint the Advertising Standards Agency has ever handled.

The polls, which we must basically now ignore until the end of time, and then a little bit longer after that, had told us a hung parliament was within the margin of error. And yet, as I write this, the Tories are on track for a tasty parliamentary majority.

People are calling it a shit show for Labour. But it’s more of a shit tour really. One played in arenas, not stadiums.

For context: Labour lost Blyth Valley to the Tories for the first time since its actual creation in 1950. Caroline Flint lost her seat in the Don Valley, which had been Labour-held for 100 years. The Tories also took Sedgefield; once Tony Blair’s constituency, red since the 1930s. Workington also swung to the Tories, as did Kensington, the consitutency of Grenfell Tower and its survivors so recently dismissed by Jacob Rees-Mogg. I could go on. But I’d really, really rather not.

Where did it all go wrong for Labour? Well. Clear the table, spread out the map. For where didn’t it go wrong? Mostly the Corbynites blamed Brexit, and the Remainers blamed Corbyn. Others said the manifesto, which contained pledge after pledge after pledge, laid on thick – like an Auerbach painting in the medium of nationalisation – was too much.

For weeks, Labour candidates had been privately messaging me, along with every other journalist, that Corbyn was “toxic” among those canvassed. But one never really knows just what that means. Toxic as in… Britney Spears’s Toxic? Which is actually really good? Or toxic as in, he was defeated so resolutely that he promised never to lead the party into an election again? The latter, it turns out.

In one of the most memorable moments of the night, Alan Johnson could barely control his rage when, sitting next to Jon Lansman, leader of Momentum – which, by the way, turned out not to have much – said that: “Corbyn was a disaster on the doorstep. Everyone knew that he couldn’t lead the working class out of a paper bag.”

At which point, George Osborne, a messy bitch who has always lived for the drama, even when it doesn’t pay him six figure sums, swivelled around in his chair, eyes full of glee. Osborne, remember, once said that he would not rest until Theresa May was “chopped up in bags in my freezer”. What he got this election was Boris Johnson hiding in a fridge.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson loses her seat

Jo Swinson, meanwhile, who voted for this election, and spent the initial weeks of the campaign telling anyone who would listen that she was going to be prime minister, lost her own seat in Dunbartonshire East by just 149 votes. In terms of who really fell the farthest this week, it has to be between Swinson and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, appearing at the Hague accused of genocide. I’m assuming both will be getting their work handed back with a big “SEE ME” scrawled across.

Swinson’s demise did give us one beautiful moment, however, which was when Nicola Sturgeon was caught on camera clenching her fists and performing a silent celebration upon hearing the result.

The SNP at the time of writing is having a grand old run with 44 seats. As for how other acronyms and abbreviations faired, perhaps less well. Results are proving disastrous for the DUP (Nigel Dodds, the Westminster leader has lost his seat) and Johnson’s sizeable majority may leave fewer cards in the hands of the ERG. OMG, JRM.

Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds arrive at Conservative Party Headquarters

Johnson was pictured looking elated. People had heard, over and over, his promise about his Brexit deal being “oven-ready”. (And apparently hadn’t heeded the warnings from Europe that yes, but that oven was a crematorium.) Dominic Raab – he of the landline telephone-cord temple vein and the callousness – clung on in Esher and Walton. Then right on cue, Donald Trump tweeted.

At which point many of us closed our laptops and headed for bed. Which, by the way, is the correct response whenever Trump tweets.

So. Maybe Dominic Cummings really is a genius. Or maybe Jeremy Corbyn spent too much time on his allotment. Maybe Jo Swinson should have waited longer than 24 hours to have taken her training wheels off.

Maybe we all went out in the rain, and gripped pencils, and soggied our ballot papers with wet hands, and put a cross next to the least worst option and it came down to this. And maybe you’re happy and maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re fed up. I’m really, really fed up. Will the Union break up? Will Brexit ever get done? Will this all lead to a united Ireland? Tune in next time. Or catch the repeat! Because one thing is for sure: this is never, ever ending.

Almost certainly new Labour leader of the election

JESS PHILLIPS. Who retained her Birmingham Yardley seat.

Snazziest boots of the election

These, worn by the Monster Raving Loony Party’s Lord Sandy of Bunhill

Reindeer who are executing their democratic rights of the election 

These two, definitely voting at a Somerset polling station