Did this actually just happen?
When 2017’s snap election was announced, nobody wanted it to happen, besides a few power-hungry Tories. The general public was jaded by elections. Labour voters were split right down the middle. Any hint of a decent opposition looked years away. It looked like a foregone conclusion, no surprises around the corner. But what a six weeks it’s been.
Last night (June 8), after heading the polls, the nation watched one of the most dramatic, unfathomable nights in British politics unfold. The end result defied the polls (again!), and at the time of writing, it’s still unclear who exactly is going to be leading the country into those much-fabled “strong and stable” Brexit negotiations. An absolute mess. Complete chaos. But also one of the most exciting nights in political history. Millions were glued to the results in a mix of bemusement and disbelief. Here’s how the night progressed:
1. That exit poll
No sooner had the country switched on to witness David Dimbleby’s all-nighter, he was already sending out shockwaves. With most expecting a Tory landslide, a standard majority at best, the 10pm exit poll revealed a completely different picture. A hung parliament was on the cards. Almost every opinion poll in the election lead-up suggested otherwise. And nobody was prepared for it.
The Internet went into a state of excitement, panic and confusion. How accurate were exit polls? How could 30,000 survey respondents correctly predict the final outcome? Was this all some kind of weird dream? So many questions.
Whatever the outcome, it was almost certain that the Tories wouldn’t make huge gains or gain huge majorities, which was Theresa May’s entire reasoning for holding this election in the first place. That “strong and stable” mantra was coming back to bite her.
2. Bow down to Emily Thornberry
A picture was beginning to form. Labour were making surprising gains, and the Tories winning nowhere near as many votes as expected. Even in supposed pro-Brexit constituencies, there wasn’t a notable swing in favour of the Tories. The prospect of a hung parliament seemed very real.
Enter shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, whose on-air interview with Dimbleby was one of the night’s highlights. She was clearly trying to contain her glee. Playing devil’s advocate, Dimbleby started talking about the so-called “coalition of chaos” Labour might try and piece together, if they gained enough votes. Thornberry responded by saying, “Have you been asked any Tories if they may be heading into a coalition of chaos?” He replied: “Well no, they all say they’re going to have a majority.” To which Thornberry said, with the sassiest of expressions, “Well there we are.” What a hero.
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3. Amber Rudd’s endless recount
After cruising to victory in 2015 with a majority of over 4,000, home secretary Amber Rudd’s seat in Hastings & Rye looked seriously under threat. If the Tories weren’t already having a rough evening, Rudd losing her seat would be a massive statement. Who else would be able to show up to debates in Theresa May’s absence?
Hours passed between an initial vote count in Hastings and an eventual recount, which saw her keeping her seat by just 346 votes. Rumours stirred that she was in fact demanding several recounts, which Twitter took in its stride.
She looked visibly shaken in a press interview afterwards, symbolic of the general feeling within her party on the night.
4. The worst high five of all time
Labour were doing very, very well. Everything was coming up Corbyn. Until this happened.
Good lord. Has there ever been a more poorly executed high-five? ‘Can a man so bad at high-fives be fit to run this country?!’ Etc. Luckily, Emily Thornberry didn’t let it ruin her night. Most MPs would resign on the spot if they were involved in a high-five this tragic, but thankfully everyone moved on.
5. RIT (Rest In Tatters) UKIP
One of the night’s biggest stories was the death of UKIP (The UK Independent Party). This wasn’t a huge surprise. The party had campaigned for Brexit, and they won on this issue in 2016. So why else did they exist?
In his resignation speech, Paul Nuttall claimed the party has been “the victim of our own success.” Which was a sugar-coated way of saying they were essentially defunct. UKIP losses were staggering. Nuttall lost his seat in Boston and Skegness. And the party’s overall vote dropped by around 15% from 2015. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage was somehow being interviewed by Dimbleby about Theresa May’s untenable position, and he claimed he would be tempted to return to politics in order to save the party. He’s a rash that won’t go away.
6. Hello darkness my old friend
Nick Clegg. Cleggers. Master and commander of the biggest political fuck-up in modern times. It’s difficult not to feel just a little bit sorry for Nick Clegg. One day he was in the midst of actual Cleggmania, causing a huge political upset with the Liberal Democrats in 2010. The next he was compromising every fibre of his being on the issues that mattered. He resigned, the Lib Dems became a running joke, and all that once looked promising fizzled out like a sparkler dipped in ice.
Things came to a head last night when Clegg was ousted from his seat in Sheffield Hallam. As the camera zoomed in towards his sad, sad face, it was hard not to feel a bit of sympathy. But then he does owe basically everyone 30 grand, and he deserves every bit of this decline.
7. Long live Buckethead
Nothing sums up the absolute anarchy that is British politics quite like Lord Buckethead. The man, the myth, the legend. He promised to “nationalise Adele”, he turned up to the Maidenhead vote by complaining about the Pizza Express he’d just eaten, and he managed to make Theresa May’s night from hell look even more humiliating.
8. It was the youth wot won it
Once the votes started pouring in, a picture began to form. In constituencies with a high proportion of youth voters, turnout was huge. And in those seats, Labour’s vote was way higher than expected. For the first time in decades, 18-to-24-year-olds had heroically turned up in their droves. They were sick of older voters deciding their future, and they bought into a positive, progressive campaign. They weren’t lazy, apathetic or uninterested in politics, as many newspapers might have you believe. They were fully invested in the years ahead. Whatever chaotic coalition Theresa May or a potential replacement attempts to form, this is the real story of the 2017 election.
9. Diane Abbott gets her own back
During this election, nobody faced as much media scorn as shadow health secretary Diane Abbott. Every interview she gave, in which she failed to cite a correct figure or hesitated on an answer, she was picked apart. The Tories began to base their campaign around Abbott, putting the fear in voters that she would ruin the country if Labour were to win. On June 7, she was forced to withdraw from the campaign due to ill health. This whole time, there was always the underlying undertone that a white, male MP would never get this kind of treatment. But look who had the last laugh.
Abbott won her biggest ever majority in Hackney North and Stoke Newington, getting 75% of the vote. She spoke about the Tories’ negative crusade, their campaign of “personal destruction.” And it was clear that hope had triumphed over hate.
10. The sweet irony of these front pages
Remember the heady days when newspapers could make claims like, “It was the Sun wot won it?” As the night progressed, it was clear the influence of hate-spreading papers like The Daily Mail and The Sun no longer had the influence they could once boast. Theresa May had done anything but “crush the saboteurs,” and it was all very, very funny.
11. This sass from the Greens
2017 was the year political Twitter got really sassy. Corbyn challenged May to turn up to the leaders’ debate like he was a bolshy kid in a playground. Rival MPs sent 140-character jibes towards each other left, right and centre. And nothing sums up the sass levels like the Green Party’s hilarious response to a potential coalition with the Conservatives. Fair to say they’re not keen.