18th March 2016
MAY 2020 (PART TWO) (Read Part One here)
Big Ben strikes and Jeremy Vine announces, “It’s 10pm, the polls are now closed and the BBC is predicting a Conservative majority, a Conservative majority”. The prediction is flashed up on the side of Big Ben.
“Professor Poll, is there anything you wish to add at this stage?”
“Yes Jeremy, we interviewed 15,000 voters as they left polling stations about how they had actually voted, not how they intended to vote, and based on the responses we are predicting a Conservative landslide of between 100 and 120 seats. When we have crunched our numbers further I will have more information for you.”
“I have in the BBC Election Night studio Lord Smirk de Smug representing the Conservatives and Den Deadingstone from Labour.
Lord Smug, a good night for the blue team?”
“Yes, Jeremy, but not a box has been opened or a vote counted but we are quietly confident and, indeed, your exit poll is reflected in our own polling.”
“Den – a dreadful night for Corbyn?”
“If your poll is correct I will eat my hat!”
“Where have we heard that before?”
“Jeremy attracted large and enthusiastic audiences wherever he went around the country and particularly young and first time voters. Our canvassing returns show us Jeremy is bringing back to the party disillusioned non-voters and those driven away by Blair and New Labour. Frankly, your exit poll is wrong and I expect to see Jeremy in Downing Street before the night is out.”
The hours drift away filled with pictures of reporters outside dark buildings, talking heads, blah blah blah, and counting halls with few ballot boxes and bored-looking tellers.
And then, just before midnight, the first result. It has been delayed because of the new, larger constituencies. Ballot boxes have further to travel and there are more votes to be counted. In accordance with tradition the first result comes from the north east and the new constituency of Castleton Powerhouse. A Labour hold! Den says “I told you so! Look! An increase in the Labour vote.”
Emily gets out the bar charts and, compared to 2015, the result shows an increase in the Labour vote but of less than 1%; a bigger increase in the Tory vote (accounting for the slightly reduced majority), collapse of the UKIP vote and increase in the Lib Dem vote but from a very low base.
“This is in line with our prediction”, says Professor Poll.
The next result quickly follows. This time from Newstock Powerhouse and the result is similar.
More time passes and then the dam of results bursts. A picture emerges of Labour being forced back towards its traditional base in former mining areas and the old industrial cities with Tories advancing from the suburbs. UKIP is imploding having lost its way since the EU referendum and the Lib Dems are putting in an impressive show from a very low base.
Labour loses all its gains from the Tories in 2015 and even gives a seat back to the Lib Dems. The grim reaper of election night shows no mercy as hard left, soft left and semi-soft left Labour MPs are swept from office. The only exceptions are those few MPs who openly campaigned in defiance of Corbyn such as those in areas dependent on the defence industry.
In Leeds a popular local MP was deselected in a move co-ordinated by Momentum but after three recounts the Independent Labour candidate defeats the official one. However, in a London constituency where something similar happened the Labour vote is split and a Tory comes through the middle to win.
It’s 3am and Professor Poll says, “We now have the results of the exit interviews we had with 15,000 voters from all around the country. These show:
- Voters do not particularly like the Tories but, critically, trusted them to run the economy. Although they were impressed with some of the shadow chancellor’s proposals they could not see how it stacked up against Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to reverse 5 years of cuts and abolish tuition fees. Quite simply voters thought Labour would lose control of the economy.
- They thought Labour’s promise to get rid of Trident risked national defence. Over 70% of those we interviewed did not support unilateral nuclear disarmament. Jeremy Corbyn’s comments about disbanding NATO also damaged Labour.
- They said to us they admired Corbyn as a man of principle but also said that he had the wrong principles.
- Most damaging was an interview he gave when first elected leader when he appeared to fail to support police officers faced with shooting armed terrorists. Although he later clarified, in the cruel world of politics the damage was done and this has been translated in voters’ minds into Jeremy Corbyn being soft on terrorism.
- Those interviewed also said Labour has still to regain credibility on welfare and immigration which had done it so much harm in 2015.
- Many voters also thought Corbyn was too old to be Prime Minister.
- In summary all voters have done this evening is translate the opinion polls of the last 4 years into reality.
At 4am @Momentum tweets, “We will be mobilising to protect Jeremy’s leadership.”
At 4.30am @IndyJohn tweets, “This result is the inevitable outcome when a Party chooses to march away from its voters”.
At 5pm a north London Labour MP says in an interview, “Jeremy was too kind. He should have stood up to the Blairites and adopted a much more radical set of policies. We now need to get rid of the remains of New Labour so we can come back stronger next time”.
A south London Labour MP says, “Corbyn’s leadership has been a disaster. We have lost contact with our voters and the issues that concern them. Voters cared about jobs, immigration, welfare, the economy and their local communities and we focussed on defence, foreign policy and health. We let down those who need our help.”
By 6am it is clear the Tories will enjoy a Commons majority of 109.
At 7am two influential Trades Unions and a group of moderate Labour MPs issue a statement saying,”Things cannot go on like this and the current leadership should consider their position and make way for those who can take Labour back into government.”
At 10am on the Friday morning a huge chocolate cake in the shape of a hat is delivered to Den’s house by the Sun newspaper.
Another Union leader blames the defeat on the Tory press, bias at the BBC and the insidious influence of Blairites and says Jeremy Corbyn continues to enjoy his full support insisting “today was a positive step on a long march”.
The next day Boris Johnson is appointed to the Northern Ireland office and George Osborne to the Welsh office.
The following week the much diminished Parliamentary Labour Party of less than 200 meets and at the end of a stormy meeting a vote of no confidence is passed in the leadership and an interim leader appointed.
The NEC says this is beyond the powers of the PLP and continues to recognise Jeremy Corbyn as Party leader. Jeremy Corbyn announces a Twitter poll of Party members to see whether he should continue.
Fast forward to 2025…
A much changed and reshaped Labour Party enters into government in coalition with the Liberal Democrats following infighting and splits in the Tory party over road tolls, NHS and school fees, pollution taxes and another referendum on EU membership.
The leader, in 2025, who has taken Labour out of the wilderness and made it electable again is…………!
By Keith Nieland