The Exit Poll drops: What does it mean?

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December 12, 2019 by Paul Goldsmith

IF the exit poll is correct, the Conservatives have a stonking majority. Labour have their worst result since 1935. The SNP are back to (rather more impotent than in 2015) dominance in Scotland and Jo Swinson is certainly going to have some questions to answer from and for the Liberal Democrats.

In what has been, in the end, the Brexit election, the party that promised to ‘Get Brexit done’ has wiped the floor with the party that decided it was better to stay neutral and the party who wanted to revoke Article 50.

It is a dramatic success for Boris Johnson and vindicated of the Conservative Party’s decision to make him Prime Minister in the first place, and then to run a campaign that was so cautious and so careful. They put out a manifesto without any massive mistakes in it, and were very clear with their messaging. Yes, Johnson avoided the odd interview and made some gaffes himself, but if you take a backward step, his performance in the campaign was relatively solid, compared to expectations.

If the exit poll is correct, however, Jeremy Corbyn has a lot of questions to answer. Whether or not he will stay around at the head of the party to answer them is to be decided. But the decision of someone who became leader because he never took a centrist position on anything to take a centrist position on an issue (Brexit) on which there is no centre must have been significant. Yes, his past, and the people around him, led to accusations of anti-semitism that he couldn’t shake off, but I don’t think that properly explains such a serious loss. Put simply, the Tories lost a load of seats in Scotland according to this poll, so they must have taken an load of seats off Labour. The NHS as an issue, or a change in the economic model, just didn’t cut through.

Meanwhile, if this poll is correct, the Lib Dems have not had their expected bounce at all. In fact, as they had picked up a bunch of defecting MPs from Labour and the Tories, they have gone backwards. This has to be for two reasons: the revoke Article 50 policy repelled even People’s Vote campaigners, being just too anti-democratic to people who believe that the only way to overturn a referendum result is to have another referendum. The second is Jo Swinson herself, who just didn’t campaign well, somehow coming across worst almost every time she got airtime. It isn’t clear why this was the case, but the Lib Dem campaign as a whole will make an interesting case study in how to snatch electoral losses from many possible gains.

In Scotland, the SNP have laid waste to the other parties again. This could again be for many reasons. First of all, Scots may have decided that as we leave the EU the best way of getting protection from the impact of that might be from the SNP, who will push hard for another independence referendum, possibly in time to remain in the EU, as in before December 2020. Secondly, it may be that the Unionist vote was split between Labour, Lib Dems and Tories, and under the First Past the Post electoral system, that is fatal for those parties when the Nationalist vote is so coherent.

Talking of coherent, with this electoral system, in this election, the disappearance of the Brexit Party meant that only one Leave Party was left for many voters whilst the Remain vote was split. You cant win with a split vote. At the end of tonight, we will see in how many seats Labour and Lib Dems added together would have beaten the Conservatives.

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