1. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE
The polls opened at 7am and the airwaves have been a politics-free zone, in keeping with strict broadcasting rules for election day. But that hasn’t stopped both parties from using the internet to ram home their Get Out The Vote messages.
On Twitter, Labour has paid for top trend #VoteLabour, but #VoteLabour2017 is trending of its own accord. On Facebook, where the real voters and non-voters tend to live, the Tories have again piled in their wall of cash with ads praising May and dissing Corbyn (in some ways the biggest winners of this whole shebang 50-day political jamboree are Facebook’s profits). The Conservatives are also way ahead in paid ads on Google search (‘Who Should I Vote For?’ prompts a Tory ad right at the top) and YouTube (irritating a whole generation of gaming teenagers who have seen the ‘Corbyn is a Terrorist Sympathiser’ advert on repeat loop).
The only question most people in politics yesterday were asking each other was ‘so, what’s your prediction then?’ Journalists should know by now that our job is not to be Gypsy Fortune Tellers (see below), but to scrutinise, analyse and reveal some of what the politicians don’t want you to know. Yet many candidates and organisers in both parties tell me they simply don’t believe the polls have captured the big shift to the Tories in Labour Leave towns in the north and midlands.
ICM/Guardian’s 12-point Tory lead forecasts a May majority of 93. But drill down and the news could be even worse for Labour: there’s an even larger 23-point lead for May among the key skilled working-class ‘C2’ voters found in many marginal swing seats. YouGov has lost its nerve and predicts a 7-point lead (rather than the hung Parliament it forecast recently). Survation is sticking with its outlier reliance on youth voters and non-voters backing Corbyn: it has Tories on 41%, Labour 40%.
Ian Warren, an elections analyst who worked for Ed Miliband (and who worked on our HuffPost-Edelman focus group in Bury South), has among the most pessimistic outcomes for Labour, forecasting a collapse to 186 seats, a Lib Dem collapse to four seats and a Tory landslide of 124.
What has amazed me in recent weeks however is not just the focus on the polls, despite the 2015 blunders. It’s how many people have been caught out by the oldest trick in the book: expectations management. The Guardian reports today that its poll prediction of a Tory majority of 96 is ‘still short of the landslide many pundits were predicting’. Yet a majority of nearly 100 is bloody huge. If Labour gets the 199 seats that ICM predicts, that’s even less than Michael Foot’s disastrous showing of 209 MPs in 1983.
The real yardstick is not the wild, 22-point Tory leads of the start of this election campaign, it is seven-point lead of the 2015 election. Cameron got 36.9% of the vote, May is regularly on 42% or more.
But ‘share of the vote’ is itself virtually meaningless in a First Past The Post electoral system, which is why all the talk of Corbyn increasing his share makes many Labour candidates tear their hair out. It’s like seeing a football team lose 5-0 but saying ‘ah but they had a fair chunk of possession’. The only stats that matter are goals scored, and seats won.
When losing parties have a disastrous night they often cling to lines about vote share, and normally everyone sees through it. Will that happen tomorrow? In 2010, Gordon Brown had 29% of the vote and 258 seats. In 2015, Ed Miliband increased Labour’s vote to 30.4% but the party’s seats went down to 232 and he didn’t pretend it was anything other than a disaster. In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn could increase Labour’s vote to 32% and still lose yet more seats. The party has drifted further away from power but thanks to the expectations management of Jezza’s “better-than-expected” campaign, his supporters could see that as “progress”. But as Corbyn himself said in Watford yesterday, seats matter.
2. TRAINS, PLANES AND SELFIE MOBILES
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn covered hundreds of miles yesterday, but in very different ways. Theresa had her private jets and buses, guided like a laser-bomb by Lynton Crosby’s ruthlessly efficient focus group targeting, to Nottingham, Norwich and the West Midlands. Jeremy had what amounted to a ‘West Coast Main Line strategy’, picking off seats from Glasgow to Runcorn to Watford and Harrow that were all on the rail trail.
Our Owen was with the PM and says it felt like a joyless attempt to limp over the line after a botched campaign. Still, the Tories won’t care a jot about talk about U-turns or campaign performance if they get the seats they have targeted.
I saw Corbyn in Watford, a seat he needs to win a majority. He wowed the crowd, as usual, vowing to stick it to Trump if he became PM. But away from the rally as Corbyn waited on Watford Junction platform, an ‘undecided’ junior doctor engaged him in conversation. Zak Vinnicombe told me afterwards that he found Jezza to be a ‘very honest and genuine guy’. But here’s the kicker: he was a former Tory voter in 2015 and was still not ‘swayed’ by Corbyn.
In Islington, for his homecoming final rally, our Kate reports such doubts were nowhere to be seen as Corbyn declared his audience were ‘the new mainstream…the new centre’. Which is precisely what Theresa May claims in her pitch to working class Labour Leave voters.
The tired old phrase from voters, “They’re all the same aren’t they?”, was never really true (Blair and Hague, the same? Miliband and Cameron?), it is even less true today. No one can say they haven’t got a very clear choice of visions for Britain in this election.
And speaking of visions, here’s a delicious final moment on the campaign trail yesterday from Boris Johnson. The Foreign Secretary couldn’t resist asking a fortune teller in Plymouth for her election forecast. Gipsy Acora was affronted Bojo wanted a free fortune telling session: “You’re having a laugh…You’re taking away my pension and then my rights and then you come and ask me for something for nothing?” Burn, as the young folks say.
3. WHAT, WHEN, WHERE TO WATCH
When Ben Ben bongs at 10pm, we get the first bit of electric excitement as the exit poll is released by the BBC, ITV and Sky News. Everyone’s favourite boffin, Professor John Curtice, has coordinated the poll so we’re hoping it is in the right ballpark (unlike 1992).
Throughout today there’ll be the usual #dogsatpollingstations action, but many will be trying to catch a powernap in the early evening before the action begins. We have our very own Peep Show Guide to election night. It’s gif-tastic.
The first actual votes from real live people will appear just before 11pm as Sunderland’s seats carry out their traditional race to count fastest. The seats have big Labour majorities but the thing to watch for will be the collapse in the UKIP vote and rise in Tory vote. Don’t forget Sunderland on Brexit night gave us the first real clue to Vote Leave’s lunar pull on the electoral tide.
After 1.30am, watch for other ‘Northern rustbelt’ seats (copyright IPPR North) such as Darlington, then later Tynemouth, Blackpool South, Sedgefield (yes Blair’s old seat). At 2am, Bury South will tell us if the Tories are in for a really good night (our focus group there suggested Labour’s Ivan Lewis is really up against it). At 3am, Bolton North East will let Theresa May know if she’s on course for a bigger majority. Most of the crunchy results come in between 3am and 4am. Slough, another big Tory target from the Blair years, is due at 3.30am and could point to a Tory majority of up to 100. Corbynsceptics Ben Bradshaw in Exeter, Jess Philips in Birmingham Yardley and John Woodcock in Barrow will be sure to let rip if things turn for the worse. The Scottish Tory surge and the key Lib Dem fights in Richmond Park and Twickenham will become clear around 4am.
We have a handy guide to where to watch on telly and which local bars (including comedian Matt Forde’s ‘lock-in’) are screening the results live. We also have a piece on the candidates who definitely won’t win and don’t expect to – you’ve got to admire their pluck. Note that we haven’t included any Tories fighting against massive Labour majorities. Some ‘paper candidates’ could actually be the real stories of the night.
4. THE FORGOTTEN
It’s fair to say that despite all our best efforts, some issues really haven’t got a proper look-in during this campaign. Both Labour and the Tories have a shocking lack of detail on how they would actually implement Brexit (the talks for which start a week on Monday, when we have our State Opening of Parliament).
Climate change debate was woeful, the shape of our economy barely received any proper discussion. School cuts didn’t get the attention they deserved (I’ve had more parents contact me about their school day being shortened and heads working four day weeks to save cash). Despite a huge focus on the state of A&E at the start of the year, the NHS was the dog that didn’t bark.
Our ‘Beyond Brexit’ series has highlighted school cuts, housing, immigration, social care and air pollution - as well as got outside the London ‘bubble. Today, Chris York has a sobering piece on What The UK Has Lost To Austerity since the Tory-LibDem coalition started in 2010. We also have a list of the ‘The Issues The Campaign Forgot’ HERE.
It’s not just issues that have been forgotten, but politicians too. Although May gathered her Cabinet around her one last time at her final rally last night, the presence of Philip Hammond, Liam Fox, Justine Greening and Liz Truss were all the more striking for their previous near-total absence from the campaign. And former Chancellor George Osborne tried to stir the pot in his Evening Standard editorial yesterday, suggesting that Amber Rudd disagrees with ‘the direction’ of the party, and will ‘speak more forcibly’ on issues like immigration after the election. Both claims were denied.
Labour’s previous leading lights have been forgotten too. Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper and Rachel Reeves have all been plugging away, but may be much more public after tonight. It’s also worth noting two of the Shadow Cabinet with higher profiles of late: Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry. By pitching in with the Corbyn campaign, they’ve impressed many around the leadership and will surely be contenders in any race for the succession. And Angela Rayner, who carved out more cash for childcare, is another to watch.
5. TERRIFYING TIMES
This election has of course been disrupted by not one but two horrific terrorist attacks (and preceded by a third, at the very gates of Parliament). The ‘Brexit election’ became ‘the security election’ in recent days, and millions of Brits will walk to the polling station today with a sense of democratic defiance.
Security has been stepped up for today and Scotland Yard has said that in London every borough will have a specific policing operation.
The Times has some extraordinary footage of the London Bridge terrorists laughing, joking and hugging as they plotted their murderous rampage five days before the atrocity. Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, gathered in the early hours of Monday, May 29, outside a Muslim gym in Barking, east London. It’s a chilling watch.
Another video emerged on social media last night too: of the trio being shot dead by police in Borough Market. Three armed officers leapt from a moving car and started shooting, ending the awful eight minutes of violence that left eight innocent people dead and scores wounded.