The UK’s 2019 General Election was, from the moment it was called, destined to be an interesting one. In the late night of December 12th and early morning of December 13th, the results rolled in. Nobody perfectly predicted what would happen, as Tories took hold of seats they’ve never won before and long time Parliamentarians found themselves out of jobs. Labour managed a net gain of one seat, the SNP managed a solid round and the Lib Dems just did ok.
Here are, in no particular order, the 10 biggest and most talked about moments of that election.
- The Exit Poll
‘Our exit poll is suggesting a Conservative majority when all the votes are counted after this election of December 2019. The Conservatives on 368 seats and Labour way down on 191. Now on those figures, we are looking at a Conservative majority of 86.’
That was the BBC’s Huw Edwards at 22:00 on the dot, when the exit polling was released. Done jointly with other news organisations and polling groups, this was the best that one can do. The reaction to this was huge. Whatever their political persuasion, people up and down the country gasped in shock. Whilst many believed the Tories would do well, that was a real shock.
Exit polls aren’t always correct, of course, as we have seen. In 1992, the exit poll predicted that there would be a hung parliament, but the Tories instead managed a surprise victory. Still, the margin of error usually isn’t huge, so people knew that the Tories were in for a good time. In the end, the exit poll was only out by three seats for the Tories and six seats for the majority.
The exit poll starts the mood of the night. You can pray it gets better or at least hope it doesn’t get worse. For the winning party, it’s a jubilant celebration. Videos online show Conservatives jumping up and down in what can only be described as utter joy. Those who aren’t supporters of the party let out shrieks of surprise and cries of anguish. As soon as those results were released, the game changed. Journalists whipped out their phones to get the latest reaction from senior politicians. Politicos raced to Twitter to type out their reaction. Across the major party HQs, there was no doubt a massive chain reaction.
- Bishop Auckland Goes Blue
Bishop Auckland is a seat in Durham, a northern county. A traditional working class Labour town, Bishop Auckland has never seen a Tory take the seat. Staunchly Brexit, it was exactly the type of seat that the Tories planned to target. They came close in 2017, managing to get within 502 seats of winning. Helen Goodman, the Labour MP, had been in the job since 2005 and the party had held the seat since 1935.
It was no surprise that Bishop Auckland was one of the most focused upon seats during the election cycle. The media descended upon the town, talking to both Helen Goodman and Dehenna Davison, a 26 year old who was the Tory candidate.
In the early morning after the election, it was time for Bishop Auckland to be called. The Tories managed to take the seat for the first time ever, with Dehenna Davison managing a fair majority of 7,962.
- Swinson’s Seat Goes SNP
Jo Swinson managed a record four and a half months as Liberal Democrat leader. Relatively young, Swinson first got her seat aged 25 after working in politics since she graduated university. Her seat, however, was in doubt from the start. East Dunbartonshire was at risk of an SNP gain, as it had been in the past. Whilst Swinson got her seat in 2005, she lost in it 2015 before gaining it once again 2017.
From early in the campaign, Swinson said she thought that she could be Prime Minister and leader of a Lib Dem majority. Whilst many mocked her for this, she was forced to confront the reality of losing the seat herself.
In the end, the Lib Dems had a net loss of 1 seat. Swinson herself lost by a very tight 149 votes to the SNP’s Amy Callaghan. SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon was seen excitedly celebrating the result.
- Corbyn Essentially Resigns
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s count in Islington North was not until later in the morning, so he’d had time to see his party get decimated. Whilst he managed to be re-elected with a thumping majority, Corbyn accepted that it would be hard to defend Labour’s showing. Though he did not resign on the spot, he promised that he would not be leading the party in the next election. As of writing, the leadership election is starting as candidates put their name forward.
Corbyn has managed to defeat votes of no confidence, a challenge from fellow MP Owen Smith for the leadership and other huge scandals. He rode out David Cameron and Theresa May, hoping to do the same for Boris Johnson. Whilst some supporters still thought he should stay on, Corbyn decided he couldn’t continue to lead his party after the disastrous results.
- Richmond Park Ping-Pong
Home of environmentalist Zac Goldsmith, the seat of Richmond Park had bounced between representatives for the past few years. Goldsmith called for a by-election in 2016, having won the seat in 2010 from the Lib Dems. He’d been upset by the pledge for a third runway, but this bit him in the bum when Lib Dem Sarah Olney managed to gain the seat. Six months later, Goldsmith won again in the 2017 GE.
It was always going to be a tossup. Goldsmith is a staunch Brexiter in a middle class, Remainer suburb of London. His majority in 2017 was 45 votes and he lost it soundly in 2019, when Olney got a comfortable majority of 7,776.
Goldsmith, however, got the consolation prize of a peerage.
- Bolsover Blues
Anyone who is familiar with UK politics is familiar with Dennis Skinner. A staunch socialist who hated Margaret Thatcher more than anyone who wasn’t Ken Livingstone, he was known for his republican jibes during the State Opening of Parliament. He essentially reserved his corner seat next to the front bench in the Commons and no one dared move him. Grumpy to some, principled to others, Skinner was seen as one of the last Old Labour sorts in parliament. He’s also a socialist Leaver, campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.
Skinner is a former miner from a mining family in a mining town. Since 1970, he’s been a well known MP, supporting Arthur Scargill and being suspended from parliament many times. His seat of Bolsover is another working class former mining town that voted leave. For years, it’s said that the good people of Bolsover would vote for a donkey if he wore a red rosette.
Bolsover was seen as a Tory target in 2019, but people were still unsure as to whether the Tories could take it from The Beast of Bolsover. In 1997, Skinner had a peak majority of 27,149, though that decreased as the years went on. In 2017, the Labour majority there was 5,288.
All eyes were on the Derbyshire constituency in the early morning of December 13th. As he was recovering from illness- Bolsover was 87 at the time of the count- and was in hospital, Skinner was unable to attend. The Tories managed to scoop the seat up, with a fair majority of 5,299, 11 higher than the previous majority held by Labour. Had he not been defeated, Dennis Skinner would have been Father of the House.
- The Prime Minister’s Prime
Uxbridge and South Ruislip is the constituency of Boris Johnson. He previously held the Oxfordshire seat of Henley before he was elected Mayor of London. Whilst he was safe then, Uxbridge and South Ruislip provided a huge challenge for Johnson in 2019.
The seat was divided for many reasons. It has a large student population and is a commuter belt for those working in inner London. There are affluent areas and no so affluent areas. It is estimated that about 57% of residents voted to Leave in June 2016, one of only four London boroughs that voted out. Some said Johnson wasn’t a good constituency MP or didn’t like him as a person, whilst others thought of him well and were happy to campaign for him.
His Labour rival was a man named Ali Milani. A staunch socialist, Corbynite and unionist, he is opposite to Johnson in many ways. A huge campaign was launched for Milani, as scalping the Prime Minister would the biggest prize Labour could get- especially since he had the smallest majority of any sitting PM in history. Whilst Milani received criticism for anti-Semitism, he still had, pardon the pun, a lot of momentum behind him.
Come morning, everyone was ready to see what the seat had in store for the PM. Behind him were comical challengers including Lord Buckethead (who challenges every sitting PM), Count Binface and Yace ‘Interplanetary Time Lord’ Yogenstein. It was a tense moment for both pro and anti-Johnson people. In a huge relief for the PM and the party, Johnson managed to keep his seat with an increased majority of 7,210. By that point, he was aware that his party was having one of its best ever election nights.
- Duncan Smith Declares Victory
The architect of the extremely controversial Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith is a former Work and Pensions Secretary, as well as former Tory Leader. His seat was one of the biggest targets from Momentum and Labour, perhaps second only to Boris Johnson. Hated by many on the left, this would have been seen as giant victory for Labour and a giant loss for Duncan Smith.
His opponent, Faiza Shaheen, was another voice on the Labour left. Shaheen emphasised her working class background and local roots, as well as the perceived evil of Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms. When the result came, it was another Tory victory. Though his majority halved, Duncan Smith clung on. In the background, Shaheen was in tears. Though she was mocked for this by some, she later stated she was crying for those she thought vulnerable in a Tory regime and that she was planning to fight back in the future.
- Blyth Valley
The third result of the night really set the tone. Another die hard Labour seat in the traditionally red Northumberland, Blyth Valley is seen as a ‘typical’ left behind town with high unemployment, small wages and a low life expectancy. It was also another Brexit voting constituency. Since its inception in 1950, Blyth Valley has not once returned a Tory. Its MP, Ronnie Campbell, had held the seat since 1987 under Thatcher.
After two slight Labour retains in the North, Blyth Valley was the first traditionally red seat to ‘turn blue.’ Though it was only a slight majority of 712, it was a majority nonetheless. New MP Ian Levy (not to be mistaken with Labour MP Ian Lavery), was the first new Tory in Parliament.
- The Red Wall Crumbles
The so called ‘Red Wall’ was a row of Midlands and Northern seats that were Labour, a long divide between the North and South of England. Many were former industrial towns, mining areas and working class strongholds. If one looked on a map, they would see a long row of red, hence the name.
The Red Wall crumbled in 2019, with seats falling to the Tories. Each of these seats voted Brexit and many were working class, representing the Conservative’s new demography. If one looks up a side by side of 2017 and 2019, they will notice a stark difference. Seats such as Bishop Auckland, Blyth Valley and Tony Blair’s former seat of Sedgefield changed colours. It was the physical and metaphorical mark of the Tories’ strong victory.
It’s up to the future to see if the Red Wall will be rebuilt.