Exit polls always are a difficult time for politicians, but the narrative of the 2019 General Election night was defined in the first 30 minutes of the BBC’s coverage.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who had not really been seen or heard during the campaign, could barely cover her smirk as she talked about the result of her dreams; all the while trying not to sound complacent. Instead, she talked about how the Conservatives were not going to ‘hang around’ and the traditional Conservative mantra of ‘Get Brexit Done’ was trotted out a number of times.
Minutes later, the left wing of the Labour Party began to try and write its own narrative. John McDonnell, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, seen as a safe pair of hands for media interviews, described how they had been ‘beaten by Brexit’. Whilst admitting that this was a bad result, there was nothing wrong with his politics, he insisted. Whether it was Momentum on 5 Live or Ian Lavery, Labour Party Chairman, across a number of platforms, we heard the same message from the Labour Party: the country wants change but not as much is it wants Brexit done. However, with each result it sounded a little less convincing.
On the other side of the Labour Party, we heard those who have spent the last few years criticising Jeremy Corbyn reiterating their well-known views and insisting that this result was a rejection of Corbyn and Corbynism. This will not be a popular message with the membership of the Labour Party and we will soon see which direction they want to take the party – after what Mr Corbyn describes as a ‘period of reflection.’
The story of England and Wales was a story of Labour’s demise and Conservative gains. It was still early when Mr Levy, a local Conservative, won Blyth Valley with a swing of around 10%. In an emotional speech he thanked Boris, ‘I’m coming to London and we are going to Get Brexit Done’. The Conservatives clarity over Brexit had resonated and it was Labour who suffered. The so called ’Red Wall’ had been broken, Labour lost areas in the Midlands, the North and Wales which many would never have predicted. Time and again, the message was on repeat ‘Get Brexit Done’. The ‘Red Wall’ constituencies are now ‘Blue Collar Tories’ – a support base the Conservatives have never had before.
In Scotland, the SNP reinforced its mandate to deliver a remain agenda and, crucially, independence. This seems an obvious collision course with a strong Conservative Government who will not want any further vote in the near future.
We also had Jo Swinson losing her Scottish seat and talking about how a ‘wave of nationalism is sweeping the country, North and South of the border’, going on to speak about how the evening’s results would be greeted with ‘dismay’ for millions of people across the UK. News stories were already talking about Ms Swinson stepping down by the morning. Conceding defeat days before the election showed how hard the Liberal Democrats had found canvassing on the door steps and by the end of the night her ‘revoke article 50’ message had clearly been rejected; arguably so had many of her other policies.
While the victory itself was predicted by many, it was the size of the majority that stands out. Boris Johnson has delivered on his reputation of winning elections. He did it in London, he did it over Brexit and he has now done it in a General Election. This is not just a 20-seat working majority, it is a traditional Westminster landslide, the type of which we have not seen since Tony Blair’s Labour Party. There is a mandate for this Government to drive through its agenda. Five years is a long time in politics and the Prime Minister will need to balance the needs of his new ‘Blue Collar Tories’ with his traditional voter base. That’s without even mentioning the Labour strong hold of London.
The morning after the night before, Boris Johnson sounded more statesman-like than ever as he addressed the nation. There was a clear focus on his non-Brexit policies. We will get a better idea of his politics in the coming days and, with a sturdy majority, the question now becomes what will he do once he does ‘Get Brexit Done’.
Aaron Bass is an associate director at The PR Office.