Thursday, 7 May 2015

The 2015 General Election: Live!

Tonight will be long, difficult, and tedious battle.

No, I'm not talking about Cameron vs Miliband; the real battle tonight will be between me and my duvet. Will I make it to 6:00am? Probably not. Will I try my hardest? Hell yeah! (*groans*)
So here's my very first attempt at a liveblog. 
I'm armed with my laptop and unhealthy amounts of caffeine. 
Let the challenge begin!

Minutes to go now. Who will win? Toss a coin.

David Dimbleby's tie is rather sombre tonight. I hope it's not an omen!

First reaction: Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.
That's all I can say. I hope you weren't expecting insightful political journalism. I may as well be sitting in a corner and rocking back and forth all night.

Speechless. Absolutely speechless. No one saw that coming.
The Tories are on 316 seats, to Labour's 239.
I keep hearing people repeating '1992'  over again. I'm fervently praying that it's not, ALTHOUGH, encouragingly, The BBC's exit polling was wildly off in 1992.

Paddy Ashdown is currently promising Andrew Neil that he'll eat his hat if The BBC's exit poll is right.

Is this the end of politics as we know it? Will First Past The Post be receiving it's last rites in the coming days? Are Clegg, Milliband and Farage finished?

It's going to be a long, and very interesting night.
All we can speculate on is the nature of Paddy Ashdown's marzipan sombrero.

I need someone to hold my hand.
Less than an hour ago, I was feeling confident in a progressive Labour SNP coalition. Now I'm not even sure what my own name is!
The results should start arriving soon; Sunderland is expected to deliver first.
I'm off to go and make a cup of tea.

The results for Sunderland South have just been announced. Labour have held a safe seat. Notably, the Liberal Democrats have won just 791 votes, meaning that they've lost their deposit.
Stay tuned.

Rumors are flying around twitter that Ed Balls is likely to loose his seat in Morley and Outwood. Less than 4 hours ago, I was sitting in a sunny pub in Headingley and jokingly predicting that this might happen. Everything feels very surreal.

The big beasts are out now, Alastair Campbell has told David Dimbleby that the exit polling 'doesn't feel right'.

Pictures of Ed Balls are circulating. He has a look on his face which can only be described as a Turkey at Christmas.

"There was no Green surge, was there?" Taxi for Andrew Neil.
Green membership has surpassed the 50,000 mark and more than quadrupled in recent years. Moreover, The Greens beat the Lib Dems in Sunderland South, winning 1,095 votes. We've also beaten the Lib Dems in all of the seats declared so far. Baby steps!
In my own college's mock elections, we came second, with 31.1% of the votes; a result I'm very proud of.
The Greens look set to be the surprise winners of the night.

I'm keeping a very close eye on both of my constituencies; Bradford East and Pudsey.

David Ward, the incumbent MP for Bradford East, has a majority of just 365. He's been running a very interesting campaign, bombarding our street with leaflets and very carefully distancing himself from the Central Party. Nick Clegg barely appears in his leaflet at all, and the focus is very much on his record as a constituency MP.
To his credit, he voted very strongly against increasing tuition fees in 2010, although he was suspended from the Parliamentary Party in 2013 for 3 months after making anti-semitic comments.

His main challenger, Imran Hussain has been doing the exact opposite. He's relatively unknown and has been associating himself closely with the central party. Cue lots of photo ops of Imran looking broody outside an A&E department, promising to 'save the NHS'.
The most surprising thing is that there has been a distinct lack of energy in Bradford East. It's number 10 on Labour's list of target seats, so I would naturally expect the party leaders to be flocking here like a mob of seagulls to a fish supper.  So far it's been pretty tame.

Stuart Andrew, the incumbent MP for Pudsey, has a majority of just 1,659.
Jeremy Vine has already predicted that he will loose his seat to the Labour candidate Jamie Hanley.

In contrast to Bradford East, you can barely drive through Pudsey without seeing electoral stakes every few meters, and even George Osborne popped up earlier in the week.
I've chatted to many people across the last few months, and absolutely nobody has had a bad word to say about Stewart Andrew. He's a fantastic local MP (I can vouch for this, he's eaten jaffa cakes in my living room!) and many people will have faced a difficult decision tonight.
I'll point you in the direction of his fantastic speech during the gay marriage debate, which can be read here
Apparently, Leeds city council had to send re-enforcements to the polling booths due to very long queues.
Nail biting stuff!

West Yorkshire will definitely be significant in deciding the outcome of the election.

I can feel the quality of my tweets deteriorating as the night goes on. Peter Mandelson just popped up (or should I say 'sassed up'?) on my telly and all I could think to tweet was "MANDELSON".

Although only 4 seats have been declared so far, the all consuming fear and panic which I felt at 10:00pm has been replaced by a sense of weariness and resignation.

I think it's time for another cup of tea. I might even push the boat out and have a biscuit.

It's looking like Galloway has lost his seat in Bradford West.

A few of my favourite twitter accounts from tonight : @RobPestonHair @Paddys_hat @LibDemDeposits

Having a conversation with someone on twitter about Tristram Hunt's beige tie. Only 11 seats have been declared so far, and the BBC's commentators are making all sorts of sweeping statements. There are still another 638 seats still to declare...

BREAKING NEWS: I'm going for a nap for half an hour.
I bet Bradford West is announced just as I nod off.

I knew something important would happen just I was nodding off!
The Tories have easily held Nuneaton, and actually increased their majority by +4%. This is a clear early indicator of a poor night for Labour.
Some commentators are suggesting the possibility of a strong Tory majority.

I wonder how Paddy Ashdown likes his fedora?
Grilled? Mashed? Fried?

Favourite comment of the night so far: "The SNP are not the VietCong." - Andrew Marr
Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy have both lost their seats to The SNP.  Not really surprising but still embarrassing, nevertheless. 
Miliband's speech in Doncaster North: "It's clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for The Labour Party... A surge of nationalism has overwhelmed us and I am deeply sorry..." 
It might as well be a eulogy. #EdStone

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been re-elected in North-East Somerset, with 50% of the vote. My faith in humanity is severely diminished.
I apologise if my spelling has deteriorated. It's a symbolic representation of the state of Britain.

I've decided that Lucy and I are emigrating to Scotland together to live on a remote highland Island. I can't be arsed with life anymore.

Just what exactly is the point of Danny Alexander? What is his function? What on earth does he do?

Imran Hussain has won in Bradford East with 47% of the vote, replacing David Ward to become my MP.
South Thanet should be declared soon.

George Galloway has lost his seat in Bradford West, with just 8, 557 votes. His face is priceless...

Just had some news from George at the count in central Leeds: They're in the process of a re-count but Ed Balls is looking extremely likely to have lost his seat in Morley and Outwood.

I'm going to bed now.  I'm still in a state of shock. Hopefully when I wake up this will all be a bad dream. 

Heartbroken. Absolutely heartbroken.
Here's the final result:

Conservative Party- 331 seats   (36.9% of the votes)
Labour Party- 232 seats   (30.4% of the votes)
Scottish National Party- 56 seats   (4.7% of the votes)
Liberal Democrats- 8 seats   (7.9% of the votes)
DUP- 8 seats   (0.6% of the votes)
Sinn Fein- 4 seats   (0.6% of the votes)
Plaid Cymru- 3 seats   (0.6% of the votes)
SDLP- 3 seats   (0.3% of the votes)
UUP- 2 seats   (0.4% of the votes)
UKIP- 1 seat   (12.6% of the votes)
Green Party- 1 seat   (3.8% of the votes)
Independent (Lady Sylvia Hermon)- 1 seat

Therefore, David Cameron has become Prime Minister, leading the Conservative Party into Parliament with a 12 seat majority.

The turnout was 66.1%.

This result has been a complete surprise.
Nobody (not even the pollsters!)  had any idea of the outcome.
Usually, like an insidious cancer, there are early warning signs. Coughing blood. Policy leaks. Stumbling over questions. Instead, today's result has hit Britain like an out-of-control juggernaut, leaving behind a scene of utter devastation.

There have been many high-profile casualties: Clegg, Farage and Miliband have all resigned. Ed Balls has gone. Jim Murphy has lost his seat.

The British people have spoken. We have chosen austerity. We have chosen to privatise the NHS. We have chosen to slash benefits. We have chosen to increase carbon emissions. We have chosen to renew Trident. We have chosen to condemn our students to a life of debt before they even begin to work. We have chosen food banks, zero-hours contracts and poverty. We have chosen to make our schools into exam factories. We have chosen to decimate Britain's stock of social housing. We have chosen to make thousands more people homeless.  We have chosen the bedroom tax. We have chosen to demonize immigrants. We have chosen to give a tax cut to the oligarchs, bankers and media barons.

**Except that we haven't.
63.1% of us did not vote for The Conservatives!

In recent months there has been a growing movement calling for reform of The UK's First Past The Post electoral system, lead by groups like 'Unlock Democracy!' In fact, just a few days ago, Owen Winter, the youth Parliament's representative for Cornwall, began a petition on calling for a proportional voting system. This momentum will only increase following today's result.

One of the most striking statistic of the night is this:  The SNP won just 4.7% of the total votes cast, but gained a staggering 56 seats. By way of contrast, UKIP won a huge 12.6% of the total votes cast but gained just 1 seat.
It's not often that you'll hear me sticking up for UKIP, but even a small child could understand that this isn't a fair system.

In January, I conducted some interviews around college to gauge people's political predictions for the year ahead.  Again, absolutely nobody predicted the outcome of the election. Most people, including myself, anticipated a Labour minority government propped up by The SNP.  (The full predictions can be read here
I managed to get 1 and a 1/2 out of 3 correct... Firstly, I correctly anticipated that The Lib Dems would be absolutely annihilated and Nick Clegg would resign (Although I predicted that Danny Alexander would be a strong contender for the leadership- this is looking very unlikely after loosing his seat).
The second one is a bit more difficult to judge. I thought that Ed Miliband would have a catastrophic 'bigoted woman' moment, and see his personal poll ratings dip significantly. He didn't. Labour have led a good campaign, and Miliband managed not to commit any horrendous blunders.
Murdoch's dirty campaign to undermine him pretty much failed. We had such low expectations of him that the fact that he turned up to the debates and didn't poo himself was a bonus.
Although there must be a grain of truth in this somewhere...

So what went wrong for Labour? It's too early to conduct a full post-mortem, but, it seems as though they've spread themselves a bit too thinly. They've been perceived as too left-wing for the likes of middle England, but not left-wing enough for Scotland and their traditional socialist supporters. I was hoping that loosing votes to The Greens, Plaid and The SNP might force Labour to return to their roots, but this catastrophic election defeat will leave the Blairites baying for blood.

Oh dear.

But surely there must be some positive news?
Yes,  there is, if you squint hard enough.

Firstly, Bez! He won 703 votes in Salford and Eccles, for 'We are The Realist Party'. (No, I'm not
twisting your melons...) In addition to this, The Monster Raving Loony Party received over double the votes of The BNP.

Secondly, Stuart Andrew was re-elected in my own constituency of Pudsey, nearly tripling his majority. He's a lovely bloke, and is a lesson to us all that politics doesn't always have to be a nasty, tribal thing.

And last, but not least, Caroline Lucas has been re-elected as Brighton Pavilion's MP. We may have lost Bristol West, but the continued presence of Caroline's sassy and independent voice in Parliament can only be classed as a force for good. We salute you Queen Caroline! (Meritocracy FTW.)

Also huge congratulations to our very own Dr Warnes, who has retained his Shipley council seat, and also saved his deposit in the general election for the very first time! He won 2,657 votes, which equated to 5.3%, up +2.3% on 2010.
I shall take great pride in telling him that he's more popular than the Lib Dems on Monday morning!
And finally, George Walker also deserves a mention for leading a fantastic Green campaign around college and coming 2nd with 31.1% of the votes. George, I still owe you a drink!

Right. I'm finally going to bed. Tonight has been an emotional rollercoster, but I'm hopeful that something positive can arise from the ashes. Stay tuned, as I'm sure I'll be blogging more in the coming weeks. 

Here are my final thoughts: 

(To quote Conchita Wurst) We will rise like a phoenix.