Will Theresa May’s gamble pay off?
As with the past two elections, the exit poll will be the big shock moment. Exit polls haven’t been bad in recent years – or to put it another way the ordinary polls have been so poor that the exit poll is a big step up in quality of information. If this says 50+ Tories, and you’ve got a big meeting tomorrow, you can afford to take the night off.
But if you do want to stay up for the whole thing, then watch out for the following:
- The Tory win depends on winning a lot more votes in the north, and locking down the Midlands. You get your first sign of how well this will work when the first result comes in from Sunderland. I’ll be watching the total number of Tory votes here – if there’s a big rise (or equally, if there isn’t), this is the time to place any last-minute election bets.
- In the West Mids, there is potential for a lot of permanent-Labour constituencies to elect their first Tories ever. Coventry hasn’t elected a Tory since at least 1964 – if the Tories are doing well, they’ll pick up two tonight.
- Equally, if you want to see the limits of what the Tories can do, look to South Yorkshire. Seats like Don Valley, Rotherham and (in some of the wilder dreams) Ed Miliband’s Doncaster were looking vulnerable once. I doubt they will fall, but strong Labour holds here bode poorly for the blues.
- A totemic win for the Tories would be Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s old constituency. With a Labour majority of just under 7,000, and 6,400 UKIP voters, this is within the bounds of possibility.
Will the revolution eat its children?
One of Labour’s problems in the 2010 election was that its top figures were getting ready for a succession contest rather than government. The same is true now. Both pro- and anti-Corbyn people will try to spin the results to blame the other side for what went wrong.
- For Corbynistas, the key question is how high is the overall Labour share of the vote? Higher than Brown (29%)? Higher than Miliband (30.4%)? Higher than Blair in 2005 (35.2%)? The answer to this could well be ‘yes’ on all counts, given the collapse in third party voting. This is the most likely defence from the idea that the election has been a disaster.
- The counterargument will be based on seats. A good share might not be reflected in the seat total – given that Labour votes are in the wrong seats. Under 200 would come across as a very bad result indeed, after a campaign that has gone very well. The number of ‘deep Labour’ seats that fall, having never voted Tory before, will be especially sensitive here.
- And how well do Corbyn’s enemies do? People like John Woodcock in Barrow and Wes Streating in Ilford North are sitting on majorities that should make them dead men walking. If they survive, they will have a personal mandate devoid of Corbyn, which will be very important in the Westminster power game.
Where did all the Lib Dems go?
This has been a dire campaign from the Lib Dems, so any wins will feel sweet. But they may be scant.
- The best chances of pick-ups will be in South West London. Based on my local soundings, I’m reasonably confident that they will hang on to Richmond and regain both Twickenham and Kingston. If you want to put money on this, Kingston feels the most certain on the strength of a very strong local campaign.
- The next test is what happens in the university seats. Cambridge is a rare battleground between the Corbynite young and hard-core Remainers – and while it should have been a Lib Dem cert, it’s now competitive.
- Then there may be some old Lib Dem seats that flip back outside of London. I’d watch Bath (probable gain) and Lewes (probably stays Tory). But the vast majority probably aren’t coming back.
- Scottish politics are weird. I have no idea how many seats the SNP will lose, so there’s potential for a few surprises. Whether the SNP loses seats (or how many it loses, and who the sitting MPs are) will be important to the moral case for a second indy ref.
- Beneath the radar, Welsh Labour has allegedly had a very good campaign. That could mean some surprise Labour pick-ups. I’m watching both Newports.
- London has been increasingly strange in recent elections. The reasons for this are even stronger in a Corbyn world. Croydon Central, Brentford and Ealing Central are all currently very close. Kensington could be a surprise Labour pick-up based on local politics. Equally, out to the east you could see heavy Leaving constituencies like Dagenham turning blue.
One last thing
Don’t bother with telly news. Everything you need to know will be on twitter a good 15 minutes earlier. The dog hours of the night, from 11:00 to 1:00, will be nothing but talking heads with nothing new to talk about; but out on Twitter you’ll be right in the thick of it.