Shock landslide for Johnson as UK turns blue

Jubilation for Johnson: He has the biggest Tory majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.

What kind of victory was it? In a calamitous night for the Left, Jeremy Corbyn announced plans to stand down, and Jo Swinson lost her seat. But progressives still reign in Scotland and London.

It was supposed to be far closer than this.

In a night of shocks and seismic upheaval that will spell the end for two major party leaders, the Conservatives emerged triumphant with the party’s biggest parliamentary majority since the days of Margaret Thatcher, while Labour lost its fourth straight general election.

“This one-nation Conservative government has been given a powerful mandate to get Brexit done,” Boris Johnson declared in a jubilant acceptance speech in Uxbridge.

The final tally stood at 364 seats for the Conservatives, 203 for Labour, 11 for the Liberal Democrats, eight for the DUP, four for Plaid Cymru and one for the Greens, while the Brexit Party — squeezed by Johnson’s resolute Brexit message — failed to win a single seat.

North of the border, the SNP swept Scotland to take 49 seats out of 59.

It was this yellow wave that provided one of the night’s gasp-inducing moments. Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats and figurehead of the anti-Brexit movement, lost her East Dunbartonshire seat to the SNP’s Amy Callaghan by just 149 votes.

“Some will be celebrating the wave of nationalism sweeping both sides of the border,” Swinson told the stunned audience. “But let me say now, for millions of people in our country, these results will bring dread and dismay.”

It was clear from the first results that something had gone horribly wrong for Labour. The loss of former mining town Blyth Valley, coming shortly after 11pm, was “unimaginable before tonight”, said the BBC.

The Tories stormed through the Labour heartlands, knocking aside the party’s red wall in seats like Sedgefield, Darlington and Stockton South. Many of these areas are turning blue for the first time in their history.

Jeremy Corbyn conceded the election soon after 3am, although he kept his Islington North seat. In his acceptance speech, Corbyn announced that he “will not lead the party in any future general election campaign”, but plans to stay in place to oversee the party’s immediate “process of reflection”.

Labour also lost a potential successor to Corbyn in Laura Pidcock, who ceded North West Durham to the Conservatives.

This morning, commentators have hailed a historic transformation in the country’s political landscape.

“The tectonic plates of British politics have shifted,” declared The Spectator’s James Forsyth.

Journalist and editor Stig Abell wrote that it is “the most surprising and significant result of [his] lifetime: Brexit happens; Britain changes fundamentally; the Labour Party will have to be completely remodelled”.

What kind of victory was this?

Big blue sea?

Many Conservatives will see it as a comprehensive routing in the style of Thatcher. In a private speech to aides this morning, Johnson said his party has “changed the political map in this country”. The UK has delivered an emphatic verdict: backing Brexit and turning away from the doubters. The Tories have done a better job at uniting the country than we could have imagined.

But for others, this is a deeply divisive victory that leaves Scotland and London out in the cold. An indignant Scotland wakes to find itself entirely at odds with its southern neighbour. In London, the Tories fell in key Remain strongholds like Richmond Park and Putney. All in all, Labour won almost 50% of the vote in metropolitan areas across the country. This election has deepened the wounds of a nation torn in two.

You Decide

  1. Is this the best result for the UK?
  2. Is Jeremy Corbyn to blame for Labour’s failure?

Activities

  1. Who should be Labour’s next leader? Design Top Trumps cards for your top three candidates to replace Corbyn.
  2. Choose a UK constituency that saw an unexpected result. With your own research, write a short case study about the area and its political character.

Some People Say...

“It is no exaggeration to say that Johnson has lied his way to the top.”

Chris Patten, former Conservative Party chair

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Labour lost several big names including Caroline Flint, who had been an MP for 22 years. The Conservatives took back Kensington by 150 votes, the closest seat in the 2017 election, which it lost after the Grenfell Tower fire. The Conservatives were not without losses: former Tory London Mayor candidate Zac Goldsmith was ousted by the Liberal Democrats from his Remain-backing Richmond Park seat.
What do we not know?
If the weather had an impact on turn-out in the first December election since 1923. It was a particularly rainy and stormy day across the country. As of 6am this morning, the average turnout was 67.17% — down 1.49% since 2017.

Word Watch

Seismic
Relating to earthquakes.
Parliamentary majority
A party needs 326 seats — although, in practice, the number is slightly less — to command more than half of the MPs in the House of Commons and, therefore, pass its agenda.
Uxbridge
Despite rumours that Boris Johnson was set to lose in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, he in fact extended his majority to 7,000.
The Greens
The party’s former co-leader Caroline Lucas has served as MP for Brighton Pavilion since 2010.
Resolute
“Get Brexit done” was a major Tory campaign slogan.
Anti-Brexit
The Liberal Democrats opposed Brexit and campaigned for a second referendum on the issue.
Nationalism
Identifying strongly with your own country and supporting its interests above others. The SNP is a nationalist party, which believes that Scotland should be an independent nation.
Red wall
A bundle of constituencies in the north of England that are traditionally working-class, Labour areas.
Ceded
Gave up.
Metropolitan
Relating to a large city.

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