Well, well, well! While there was a feeling in the air that Boris Johnson would be returned as Prime Minister, few expected the result would be quite so stonking.
Despite appearing to be personally unpopular in opinion polls, Mr Johnson delivered the most successful Conservative election result since 1987. Many would argue (including some in the Labour Party) that this was due to the even lower regard voters held for Jeremy Corbyn.
With a majority of 80, the Prime Minister is effectively untouchable. No longer will he have to battle the DUP, disgruntled backbenchers, or europhile MPs. This Conservative Party will be Team Boris and are more than likely to step in to line when the boss calls the shots. It’s always wise to have a glance back over those manifestos, now that we know who’s in office. Certainly it looks like we’ll soon be served our ‘oven ready’ Brexit.
Under any normal circumstances, this would mark the start of a period of soul searching for Labour – given their worst electoral performance since Montgomery Clift was a teenager. But normal times these ain’t. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has been a project, not a term of office. ‘Corbynistas’ hold key positions all across the party and the wave of new members who joined when Corbyn became leader are still card carriers. Those who assume that things will return to some form of Labour centrism when Jezza departs should prepare to be surprised. Oh, and that’s before the Party even attempts to settle internal divisions over Brexit and elects a new leader. It will almost certainly be a bumpy ride.
In Scotland, the Labour Party has – quite incredibly – been reduced to a solitary MP, with Ian Murray (one of Corbyn’s staunchest critics) holding on to a strong personal vote in Edinburgh South. This sort of rout would have been unimaginable to any political observer only a few short years ago and only underlines the serious condition the party now finds itself in.
The Lib Dems had little to sing about either. Despite promising much (like that Jo Swinson would be Prime Minister), Swinson failed to hold on to her seat – leaving the Party searching for yet another new leader. With only 11 MPs and no king-makers required, it’s hard to see how the Liberals will make a mark in the Commons.
For the SNP, it was a stellar night – with the party returning 47 MPs (and one suspended member who still appeared on the ballot paper). Ruth Davidson will be counting her blessings that the threshold of 50 seats was not crossed – given her promise to skinny dip in Loch Ness were such a fate to pass. By any measurement, this was an incredible result. Remember it was only four years ago that the party had 6 MPs. Wearing the crown of third largest party in the UK is quite the achievement and will bring with it many rewards; not least short money, committee convenorships, air time and speaking slots.
Already the SNP are claiming the vote offers a fresh mandate for independence. This is somewhat debatable, given that the party campaigned heavily on ‘Stop Brexit’ and ‘Stop Boris’. It will be interesting to see if the re-election of Boris Johnson and the reality of Brexit will boost public appetite for another independence referendum. Certainly the political map makes the UK looks starkly divided and the health of The Union is in a questionable state. Of course, with the PM ruling out another referendum, we can probably expect years of constitutional wrangling.
For now, we must wait for the dust to settle. But, with Parliament set to unblock itself (for better or worse), we will have much to keep our eye on and much to attempt to influence. We’ll be doing our bit to keep you in the loop!
– The views expressed in this blog belong to the author and not necessarily to SCVO –