The Blog

30 Seconds After An Exit Poll - A Short Story

The date and time is 10pm on 7 May 2020. I've been invited to take part on the election panel to discuss the results and the exit poll which has just been announced. I remember how I felt in 2015, when Ed Miliband lost the election and handed the Tories their first majority government since 1992. It was a hard moment. This, however, is harder. Is it too late for me to escape? Probably. It is five seconds after Andrew Neill announced the exit poll. Sheesh.

In September 2015, the party elected Jeremy Corbyn as leader. It was, needless to say, a shocking moment because he was only there to kick start a 'debate' about the future of Labour. Instead he exposed the other candidates for their professionalism. Labour had been attacked so much for being too professional - but it only became that way because of 1983. Anyway, in the last few weeks before the special conference, #CorbynsMovement galvanised itself. Blair's interventions just didn't work because of his association with Iraq and the Chilcott Report. Even Gordon Brown couldn't repeat the magic of his Union speech. The last few weeks were so brutal. I'd never seen anything like it.

After being elected Corbyn's Labour Party bravely stood up to the Tory government's policies. We had protests over the abolition of National Insurance, welfare changes, abolition of Trident, lifting tuition fees cap, and the demands for a new relationship with the Middle East. Labour demanded Britain stop fighting against ISIS, however the Tories were able to push through new legislation removing the need to consult Parliament on military action. Robin Cook's legacy in tatters. The protests made activists really feel like they were making a difference. It was great!

Now, in 2020, the Tories have been promising investment in the NHS and welfare, but this was the same trick as they pulled in 2015, 2010, and every election before then. Sadly the protests didn't work, and now welfare is provided by insurance policies. The NHS is free at the point of use for full policy holders. Everyone has one, but not everyone can afford to keep it fully paid up. Yet it's still called the 'NHS'. In the days running up to the election, Labour again fell back behind in the polls, and now as I look up at the screens, I see the exit poll confirmed my worst fears.

What now for Britain? The Tories will be in government for another term at least. Also, what now for Labour? All the old guard have gone, all that remains are the Corbynites and a few ideologically pure Milibandites. New Labour and the Brownites are both distant memories. Will Labour finally wake up and realise protest isn't enough? We have spent the last five years protesting, when we should have been getting ready for government. The Parliamentary Party just argued over procedure rather than opposing Cameron (and then Osborne) for what they were doing. If we do the same now, Labour will lose again in 2025. The Tories may end up being in power longer than the Thatcher/Major administration. They stole Miliband's clothes in 2016. It took away any moderate Labourism, leaving only the hard left. Labour can only change the country if it is in government,

I look at my watch. It has been 15 seconds since I saw the exit poll, and all these thoughts have rushed through my head.

Why is this so depressing? Mostly because we knew this was going to happen. Even before we voted Corbyn as our leader, we knew it would cost victory in 2020. And here we are. Looking at the result. There's also a sense of anger here. Surely deliberately electing someone who we know will cost us dear is an act of... well, idiocy at the very least!

What could we have done differently? Kendall wasn't suitable because she was only putting down a marker for the future. That future never came. Burnham was probably the best option, but he needed to come alive more. Cooper was too defensive. Maybe Miliband should have stuck around a little longer, but how could he after the number of MPs went down so far? It was an uninspired group, but probably offering a better route than the one we took.

30 seconds have now passed, and I'm beginning to pull my thoughts together for the panel discussion. What now for Labour? No doubt Corbyn must go. But who is left to renew? With so few MPs, Labour will be out of contention for 2025, that's for sure. It has to be a ten year plan. We should have started this five years ago. But how on Earth can we rebuild against a new emboldened Tory government with a landslide? Also, have we ever had fewer than 200 MPs this side of WW2? We do now. Good job, Labour. Time to grow up.

Now. For the rest of election night.