Live Britain

10am UK time, 7pm in Melbourne: I’m going to call it a day at that point. There are still two seats undeclared: Kensington in London, which despite a Conservative margin of 21.1% is apparently extremely close, and Cornwall North, which also should be safe Conservative (13.7% last time), but counting in Cornwall has been slow all day. Neither will change the overall picture.

The exit poll basically got it right. It predicted 314 seats for the Conservatives; they’ve won 317, with another two possible. Labour has 261, five less than predicted; the others are all within a seat or two.

Corbyn has declared himself ready to form government, but he’s unlikely to be asked. The result will clearly be a Conservative government, but just what shape it will take and who will lead it remain to be seen. Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, who with ten seats have the Tories at their mercy, has dropped a very broad hint that she thinks May should stand down.

Interesting times ahead, for the Conservative Party in particular.

7.35am: The very close seats tend to come in at the end, because they’ve been doing recounts on them. The Conservatives have just taken Richmond Park from the Lib Dems by 45 votes, while Labour has held off the Conservatives in Dudley North by 22 votes. Only five to go, all of them Conservative-held: Kensington, plus four in Cornwall.

7.10am: That’s the closest one yet – the Scottish Nationalists just held Fife North East from the Lib Dems by two votes!

6.50am: The results are almost wrapped up, but no doubt the haggling over the new government will take a while. With seven seats to be decided (almost all of them Conservative-held), the Conservatives have 313 seats, the DUP ten, and there is one independent Unionist. That’s a wafer-thin majority; the undecideds will bolster it a little, but it will still be at the mercy of rogue Tory backbenchers – and, of course, of the DUP itself, which can only lose from a hard Brexit.

On the opposition side, there is Labour with 260 seats (up 29), the SNP with 35 (down 21), Liberal Democrats twelve (up four), Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalists) four (up one) and the solitary Green: a total of 312. They might pick up at most two or three more. There’s also Sinn Féin, with seven seats (up three), who don’t vote – a position they’ve reaffirmed today, despite what must be a strong temptation.

So very close to a tie. The left has it on votes, but the right has it on seats.

6.15am: I’ve just come back from a lunch break to find very little has changed. The Conservative position has improved very slightly, courtesy of some close wins – they held onto Southampton Itchen by 31 votes. They’re now on twelve net losses, with just 17 seats yet to come in; twelve of those are Conservative, and only two of them marginal (Crewe & Nantwich and St Ives).

The overall swing to Labour has been creeping up and is now at 2.2%. That will still leave the Conservatives with a plurality of the vote: currently it’s 42.3% to 40.3%, and that gap will widen slightly.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that the majority of voters have chosen parties hostile to the government. Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP currently have 52.9% between them; that will come down a little, but it will still be well above 50%. Yet the electoral system has saved the Tories.

5.30am: Yes, I think we can now call that. There will not be a Labour government; the Conservatives have enough to hang on, with the support of the DUP. They’re down 13 seats – it was 14, but they’ve just picked up Stoke-on-Trent South from Labour – with only 35 seats undecided, five of which are Conservative marginals. But they’ve had an almighty fright, and May’s survival prospects are poor.

As I said earlier, it’s the revenge of the “remain” generation. Even though Corbyn is only a lukewarm European, voters have shifted to him as the only way to punish the Tories for the mess of Brexit. A good result for Labour, and the huge generation gap that has opened up bodes well for it for the future.

In an ideal world, Corbyn would now retire gracefully on a high note, giving place to a more consensus figure who would be poised for a crushing victory next time. That seems unlikely. But it’s genuinely possible that the Tories will turn to Boris Johnson, who could lose them power for a generation.

5.00am (UK time): Conservative net losses now up to 13, with seven of their marginals still to come in. My feeling is that they’ve got this, but I’ve been wrong before.

4.35am: Only about 100 seats to go, so we’re very much at the business end of things. The only number that really matters – the one you need to watch – is the net Conservative loss of seats. At the moment it’s on eleven. (Check it at the BBC or the Guardian.) If it gets up to 20, a Labour government is on the cards. I don’t think it will, but it’s possible. We’ll know in another hour or so.

4.10am: Looking again at those Conservative marginals; 35 of the 57 have been decided, of which they’ve held 17 – not quite half. Labour has picked up 14 of them and the Lib Dems four. So if that record continues there may be another dozen or so losses to come, which would make things very interesting.

The Conservatives have also lost four of their safer seats (all to Labour), while they’ve picked up two Labour marginals, one from the Lib Dems and nine from the Scots. But there aren’t as many more of those targets left to decide; there are only about twelve Scottish seats outstanding.

With more than 500 seats in, the swing to Labour stands at 1.8%.

4.00am: OK, I’m now willing to call that as a hung parliament. I don’t think the Tories realistically can win a majority from here. They could only afford to lose (net) about eight seats; they’ve lost ten, with 200 still to be decided, including quite a few of their marginals.

The question is whether they’ll hold their losses to the point where support from the Ulster Unionists, who will have about ten seats (all DUP, by the look of it – the official Unionists have been wiped out), will be enough to ensure a majority. And that’s very much touch and go.

So Britain’s crazy electoral system, which is defended on the basis that it produces stable majorities, has now failed to do so in two of the last three elections. You don’t have to choose between democracy and stability: you can be Britain and have neither.

3.40am: Now 397 seats in, and Labour has made a net gain of 21, but the Scottish Nationalists, who they’d depend on to form a government, have lost twelve. The Conservatives have lost 18 but gained nine, mostly from the Scots. So the exit poll is looking pretty much on the ball; the government losing enough seats to make it a hung parliament, but able to hold on with the support of the Ulster Unionists. But it’s far from over; if they drop much further, other possibilities open up.

3.25am: And just to update the betting odds, a hung parliament has shortened to 8-1 on, and Corbyn as prime minister has come in to 11-10. May is still favorite at about 7-5 on.

3.20am (UK time, nine hours behind Melbourne): Almost half the seats decided, and it’s still very much in line with the exit poll, which means anything could happen. Looking at the Guardian’s figures for marginal seats, of the Conservatives’ 57 marginals (under 10%), 18 have been decided, of which they’ve only held half; eight have fallen to Labour and one to the Lib Dems. (They’ve also lost one safer seat, Battersea.) Labour, on the other hand, has only lost one seat, Walsall North.

So there are potentially a lot more Labour gains to come. I’d still bet against a Corbyn government, but it’s a real possibility – although it’d be a ramshackle affair, depending on the Welsh and Scottish Nationalists and the Northern Irish SDLP, and presumably the Lib Dems as well. (The latter are holding their own: Nick Clegg was defeated, as expected, in Sheffield Hallam, but Vince Cable won back Twickenham and they’ve also picked up Bath.)

3.00am: With 239 seats in, more than a third of the total, Labour is up nine but the Conservatives still only down one. The swing is drifting upwards, now 1.4% to Labour. Sportsbet has a hung parliament at 5-1 on, with 5-2 against a Conservative majority. May is 3-1 on favorite for prime minister, Corbyn 9-4, Johnson 10-1.

2.50am: Interestingly, the sharemarket doesn’t seem to mind Labour’s gains. The ASX dropped noticeably on opening, but it’s now recovered to where it started. Compare that with the precipitous drop last year when the Brexit results came through. For all the talk of Corbyn’s “communism”, the Tories have done much more damage.

Overall swing now very stable at just over 1%.

2.30am: With 152 seats decided, Labour has gained six, but the Conservatives are only down one – the thing that’s keeping them alive is that they’re picking up seats from the SNP. From the point of view of trying to put together a Labour government, SNP losses are just as bad as Labour losses. That’s why I still think we’re looking at a Tory government (probably relying on the Ulster Unionists), but I said at the beginning, it will be “an unhappy and unsteady one.”

2.25am: And all the talk now is of the Tories making Boris Johnson leader. If they do that, Corbyn will be prime minister for life.

2.20am: It’s a massacre in London. Ealing Central & Acton, a Labour marginal, held with a swing of 12.2%. It’s the revenge of the “remain” generation.

2.15am: This is looking better and better for Labour. They’ve taken Battersea and Stockton South from the Conservatives, and Leeds West from the Lib Dems, with a total swing still hovering around 1%. Basically Labour is holding up OK in its heartland areas and getting big swings in London and in Wales. With 106 seats decided, I’d say the chance of a Conservative majority is slipping away.

1.55am: Now the first Tory loss: Labour has taken Vale of Clwyd, in Wales, with a swing of 3.4%. The Conservatives just held on in Putney, and have gained Angus from the SNP. Scottish independence is off the agenda for a while, I suspect.

An overall swing of 1.2% to Labour.

1.25am: And just as I said that, it dipped sharply on the swingometer, now 0.3% net to Labour. Still no more seats changing hands (out of 25 decided), but a couple that the Conservatives had hopes for that Labour has held.

1.20am (UK time, remember): We’ve now had the first seat changing hands: Labour has won Rutherglen & Hamilton West from the Scottish Nationalists. Also the first Northern Ireland result, with the independent Unionist holding North Down. If things continue this way, the Northern Ireland MPs are going to be very important people, which is bad news for the hard Brexiteers.

The net swing overall is still about 0.8% to Labour. No Welsh results yet, but the Guardian reports that Labour is confident there.

12.55am: Results continue trickling in, but it will be pretty slow for the next hour. With 15 seats declared (ten Labour, five Conservative), none have changed hands; the swing is very patchy, but slightly in Labour’s favor overall. Nothing so far that suggests the exit poll is far wrong, but as I said earlier, even a handful of seats either way could end up making a big difference.

A Conservative government of any sort is still no certainty; on the other hand, a workable Conservative majority is still very much possible.

12.15am: Another three seats in (two Labour, one Conservative); none of them marginal, but the swings are now looking better for Labour. The BBC swingometer is showing Labour up 9.1% and the Conservatives up only 7.1% – both mostly at the expense of UKIP, down 12.6%. This looks like being a long day (or, for the British, a long night).

Midnight, UK time (9 hours behind Melbourne): Now a third seat, Sunderland Central, declared, also safe Labour. But of the three results, two have shown swings against Labour: not large ones, but somewhat out of line with the exit poll showing Labour gains. But it’s not that Labour is actually losing votes; it’s gaining, but the Conservatives are gaining more, due to the collapse of the UKIP vote.

It’s very possible, as many had said during the campaign, that Labour could lose ground in its working-class heartland but gain overall. It’s not so clear that a net gain in seats could follow. The traditional pattern by which Labour outperformed its vote in terms of seats seems to be changing as the class basis of the parties shifts.

Shorter version: what a dreadful voting system this is.

 


Polls in the United Kingdom closed an hour ago. Only two seats have been declared, both of them safe for Labour. More importantly, there’s the exit poll (just one, different pollsters collaborate on it).

If it’s right, then the Conservatives’ fear that opinion polls had been over-correcting for their previous pro-Labour bias will have been borne out. It’s very bad for prime minister Theresa May, putting the Conservatives on just 314 seats, a loss of 16 and twelve short of a (notional – I’ll come back to what that means) majority.

Labour would have 266 seats, a gain of 34; the Liberal Democrats would be up six to 14, the Scottish Nationalists down 22 to 34, leaving 22 for everyone else – 18 of them in Northern Ireland, where the party system is completely different. That’s a much better Labour result than most projections had suggested.

Of course, there’s something paradoxical about using a poll to show that the polls were wrong. But exit polling in Britain has a pretty good record. Last time it correctly showed that Tories were doing much better than expected (and Labour and the Lib Dems much worse), but it still put them short of the majority they actually achieved. In fact it gave them almost exactly the total it has this time: 316 seats.

So we’ll need to wait and see what the real numbers show. If the poll is right, there will be a Conservative government, but an unhappy and unsteady one. The notional figure for a majority is 326, but since the Speaker and the Sinn Féin MPs (of whom there might be five or six) don’t vote, only about 323 are really needed. There were ten Ulster Unionists in the last parliament; that would be enough to put May across the line, although if they lose a couple of seats things would look very precarious indeed.

May had said during the campaign, in the nature of a warning, that a loss of six seats would mean a Labour government. Like many other things she said, that was untrue, but if she does go backwards that far it will almost certainly make her leadership untenable.

In other words, even if the exit poll is very close to the truth, a small difference either way could have a very big effect. But unless it’s badly wrong, this is an extremely bad result for the Conservatives, and an epic warning of the foolishness of early elections.

More updates to come as results appear.

13 thoughts on “Live Britain

  1. Well there you go. A long way to go yet but it is mostly Labour winning seats from the others, at least 4 (Stockton, Shipley, Battersea, Bury North) from the Tories, and others from SNP, LibDems and in Wales.

    If May squeaks back in, she is a dead duck. Sometimes there is a modicum of justice.

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  2. Just heard an ABC/BBC live interview with Nigel Farage who is busy blaming Theresa May, or the Tories for electing a Remainer to lead them after Brexit won the referendum! (Well, she was a very luke warm Remainer. Should have given people a clue as to her style.) Farage says he might have to re-enter the debate because he reckons Brexit might be in jeopardy! He is obviously disappointed so many UKIPpers have returned to Labour.

    I agree that with SNP and LibDems performing so poorly it looks difficult for a Labour coalition (if it gets that far). I don’t know why these minor parties so adamantly screech that they will never do a deal to form a coalition. Dumb. I suppose the LibDems got so burnt the last time but still it is stupid; as a natural LibDem voter (or Greens if I still lived in Brighton-Hove which was the first seat won by a Green in the UK) I ain’t interested in voting for a minor party unwilling to play a role in an actual government! No wonder they are still losing voters back to Labour. Just reinforces my views about Brits being clueless about sophisticated governing without clear majorities (ie. the vast part of Europe).

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    1. Yes, the British have no idea about coalition politics – or what most of the world calls democracy. And the ‘kippers are so wrapped in the narrative that they’re the voice of the people that they can’t fathom the idea that voters are angry at Brexit and taking their revenge.

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  3. Some justice in Nick Clegg losing his own seat –and to Labour. What he did in 2010 was beyond absurd.
    I just happened to read the section on student fees in the UK, in the new book by Stefan Collini (Speaking of Universities, Verso, 2017):

    On reason why the Commons’ vote on 9 December 2010 to remove public funding from teaching and to triple undergraduate fees was a scandal was because such a measure had not been a manifesto commitment of any party–indeed, the abolition of fees had been a manifesto commitment of the junior party (ie. LibDems) in the coalition whose MPs were now being forced into the division lobby–and had not been subject to any proper democratic scrutiny.

    Seriously. Bad. Policy driven by the top three pollies in the land (PM Dave, Treasurer Osborne and London Mayor & MP, Boris) all Eton boys, then Oxford and members of Oxford’s exclusive boys Bullingdon Dining Club (whose m.o. was to dine in fine restaurants, get blind drunk then trash the joint after which a rich daddy bails them out and bribes the restaurant to hush it up) who are of the type and class that will never be impacted by such policies. BTW, the British media is again expecting Boris to be crowned PM after May’s debacle …

    Meanwhile former deputy LibDem leader, Vince Cable has won back his seat (from a Tory I think) and so I suppose might be their next leader? Of some tiny rump of a party with zero influence.

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  4. Another Tory seat lost to Labour: Enfield Southgate, won by the delightfully-named Bambos Charalambous.

    Meanwhile The Guardian Australia’s Bridie Jabour wrote:

    Australia’s former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd has tweeted in glee about the failure of the supposed mastermind behind Theresa May’s campaign, Sir Lynton Crosby.
    Crosby earned his knighthood, as far as we can ascertain, for services to the Tories and has been running campaigns for them since Boris Johnson was first elected London mayor.

    Yeah, makes me grind my teeth when these types are labelled geniuses when the party happens to win but are nowhere to be seen after a loss. In fact after Turnbull’s exceedingly close brush with electoral death last year, Mark Textor was seen whinging and blaming the Liberals for their poor campaign. The Tories should strip Crosby of his bloody knighthood.

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  5. Another Tory seat lost, this time to the LibDems:

    The Lib Dems have won back Oxford West and Abingdon from the Conservatives – and with 11 MPs are into double figures.

    I’ve lost track. Is that 15 Tory seats lost so far?

    Tons of mumbling about whether May will stay or go.

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  6. (5.30 am in UK): still a bit early I’d say. OK, the Labour numbers even with SNP and Lib-Dems (and even with 3 Sinn Fein who it has been speculated might this time take their seats in solidarity with Corbyn–irony of ironies). But there is nothing but grief and instability for the Tories. Some commentators are already speaking of another election this year (and Farage of a second referendum on Brexit!).

    On earlier blogs we talked about the need for a coalition of Labor and other similar-minded groups, but how the Brits seem so resistant to such collaboration (and when they do, they get it completely wrong, ie. LibDems in 2010). But here is GA’s Zoe Williams on how Corbyn turned things around (list of 8 things):

    6) The Green party
    They have taken a hit in vote share. Numbers in the north-east are down to the hundreds. This is because they took a moral decision to stand aside in some seats, campaign together in others, form non-aggression pacts across constituencies to prevent a Conservative landslide at any cost. The cost, to them as a party, has been pretty great. Typically, it will hit them in university towns, where their vote share was high for reason of a concentration of educated people, thinking about things. In Newcastle-upon-Tyne East, they were down nearly seven points. The very least the Labour party, and all of us, can do is to acknowledge that this was the result of decisive action on their part, and not just an unfortunate loss of interest in the environment.

    Nevertheless, we can be sure no one will acknowledge this and instead will hypocritically sneer how the Greens went backwards.

    7) That coalition of chaos (or progressive alliance, as we prefer to call it)
    While the Greens were the only party to pursue it officially, local activists in huge numbers, from the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Women’s Equality party, the National Health Action party, worked together to maximise their chances.

    Dream on. It is as clear as can be that Labour need to lead in forming a semi-formal coalition with these others. So that the FPTP system doesn’t work against them (as The Greens acknowledge) in many seats they otherwise would win.
    But they won’t. A partial recovery like this just makes the party apparatchiks even more entrenched that “we can win next time” and to hell with all these other ratbags stealing “our” vote. Right now is the time to do it, when almost everyone except Labour is a loser (esp. SNP and LibDems). And to prepare for another election soon. But they won’t.

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    1. Indeed. The winner-takes-all mentality is deeply entrenched in the Labour Party, with the Corbynists as much as anyone.

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      1. Here is what the Greens sole MP, Caroline Lucas, wrote in the Guardian overnight:

        I hope, therefore, that Labour and the Liberal Democrats will look at this election result and think what might have been. One of the priorities for a progressive alliance is to get electoral reform. The Conservatives have absolutely no intention of changing our voting system because it locks in two-party politics, which helps to keep them in or close to power. A cynic might also say that Labour have never been fully committed to it for the same reason. But, as in 2015, the translation of votes to seats in this election proves that the introduction of proportional representation is essential if we are to have a truly representative democracy in Britain. Make Votes Matter estimates that, had this election been run under PR, the Conservative lead over Labour would have been slashed to 16 seats. The Greens would have won 11 and our combined total, along with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, would have easily surpassed the Conservatives. A progressive government could have happened.

        I think the same about Australian Labor who, too often, need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. But as long as there is a tiny skerrick of hope that they can govern by themselves they won’t do it. Even if they can believe the governing party will swing to and fro between them and the LNP they won’t change. But they have eyes and can see the fracturing of two-party systems and loyalties everywhere and should get out ahead of the curve. If Corbyn, SNP, Lib-Dems and Greens had co-operated to put up single candidates in some critical seats it would be PM Corbyn today. Instead the toxic Tories are having to deal with the even more toxic DUP to form a minority government that doesn’t look like it can possibly last; not just because May is not up to leadership but the DUP look exactly like an unreliable bunch of regressives.

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      2. Indeed. Labour could have introduced PR under Blair, but its old guard wouldn’t stand for it. Even now, as you say, some tactical alliances with other parties would have done the trick. And Australian Labor is equally resistant to reality.

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