General Election 2017: rolling blog

By staff writers
June 8, 2017

Welcome to Ekklesia's rolling blog on the General Election 2017, which will be running actively from an hour after close of polls at 11pm tonight, Thursday 8 June 2017, through to the morning of 9 June. We will also open a thread for comment on our Facebook group tonight.

[05:00] We will be taking a break for a few hours, and will be back when the overall outcome is clearer. There's a good deal to reflect on.  

[04:54] JC:  Jeremy Vine has just been running through the projected proportions of the vote this evening. Across the UK, and excluding the SNP and Plaid Cymru, the Conservative Party on 43% are actually up 6% from 2015, despite the widely-agreed disaster that this evening has been for the party. Labour are up 10% to 40%, 3% more than the Conservative take from last time, which earned that party a majority, and nearing Tony Blair territory. Outside of Scotland this has been a two-party election, with the gains in vote share of the two largest parties coming at the expense of UKIP and to a lesser extent the Greens. In 2015, these latter two parties pointed out rightly that they would have more than a handful of seats under a proportionally representative system. This time, under such a system with a 5% vote share necessary for winning seats, neither party would earn seats.

[03:30] "A great shift of power has taken place from Murdoch and Dacre to social media and the young," says political commentator and democracy campaigner Anthony Barnett. "Hope is triumphing over fear in this election," says former Liberty chief, now Labour peer, Shami Chakrabarti. 

[03.12] SB: A  tough night for the SNP in Scotland, losing Westminster leader Angus Robertson in Moray, and other big hitters such as Tasmina Ahmed Sheik and John Nicholson. Though the party will still be by far the largest from Scotland at Westminster, there has been a sgnificant rebalancing of what is now effectively a four-party system. The Conservatives have increased their vote considerably by campaigning against independence and galvanising the unionist vote in contests with the SNP. Labour, on the other hand, has made its gains on the back of a popular UK manifesto, even though the party in Scotland has been very mixed in its response to Jeremy Corbyn. It was never likely or sustainable that the SNP, winning an average of 42% of the vote, could hold on to 95% of seats. Even so they are still likely to end up with more seats than all the other parties put together. 

JC adds: It's a big shame to see Angus Robertson, formerly the SNP's leader in the Commons, lose his seat in Elgin. For most of the last Parliament he was perhaps the most vocal, consistent opponent to the Conservative Party at PMQs. Here's hoping the SNP find a strong replacement. 

[02.45] Allan Radcliffe, freelance writer and theatre critic for The Times in Scotland, writes: "Depressed that in Scotland the fear of Indyref2 may have led some voters to overlook bedroom tax, welfare cap, rape clause, et cetera, and vote Tory."

[02:20] JC: The Progressive Alliance may not have gained the official backing of Jeremy Corbyn or Tim Farron for a nationwide strategy; but as the website declares, 41 alliances have been made in constituencies throughout the country. Perhaps most impressive of all has been the Green Party's willingness to tactically not stand candidates to encourage turn out for Labour candidates. Rupa Huq has just benefited from an increased margin in Ealing Central and Acton. My "home" constituency of Derby North (I live in the USA) also has no Green standing. With a margin of only 41, this last-time Green voter is hoping Labour's Chris Williamson is given enough of a boost to sneak in this time. 

[02:00] Malia Bouattia, President of the National Union of Students: "Early reports suggest that 72% of 18-24s voted. Some people are surprised. We are not."

[01:45] JC: What then for Labour's future? As Andrew Marr has just said on the BBC, it looks as though Corbyn has the job of Labour leader as long as he wants it. Can Labour build under his leadership to be a real party of progress, garnering the young vote and bringing in natural Greens, SNP and Plaiders? With Peter Hain and Douglas Alexander, two Labour grandees, declaring themselves impressed, Corbyn may now have some breathing space to allow change in the party. 

[01:30] Jill Segger (JS) writes: An exit poll unexpected by many, a few marginals predicted to go to Labour, cabinet ministers under threat and a long way still to go. However, there are reasons to believe that a significant change in the political weather may be under way. High-handed assumptions of superiority on the Conservatives' part, the anti-Corbyn stance of most of the media, a degree of hostility towards their leader from some of the PLP and a referendum outcome which cut across party allegiance and constituency/MP stances, have all combined to undermine received points of reference.

For the first time in decades, it can no longer be said with any degree of credibility that political parties are 'all the same'. Jeremy Corbyn has fought a campaign which, as it grew in confidence, offered a clear alternative to the neo-liberal consensus, while Theresa May's leaden-footed incapacity to respond with imagination or vision has been unable to raise the Conservative game to meet unexpected change and challenge. Whatever we wake up to later this morning, it seems that the old certainties have crumbled and that politics is not going to be quite the same again

[00:34] SB: Financial Times chief correspondent Jim Packard comments: "The irony-meter would go off the scale if Theresa May ends up in charge of an ACTUAL coalition of chaos, featuring Tories/DUP/UUP." While Ann Pettifor asks, in relation to the Conservatives' tactical brain: "Lynton Crosby's reputation as a great strategist -- in tatters?"

[00:26] JC: Coalescing questions: Noting Simon's caution (23:21) below, we might consider what the likelihood is of certain parties going into coalition together. A Lab-Lib coalition was many Labour supporters' dream in the early hours of 7 May 2010. So what might Conservatives have given for a willing Lib Dem leader at 22.01 tonight? However good the night proves for the Lib Dems, though, they will be far too small to help Labour over the line. In any case, Tim Farron has decisively, it seems, stated that the Lib Dems will ally with no one, depriving the Conservatives of that particular dancing partner. A Lab-SNP coalition might be some progressives' hope, but again would be too small an alliance; in any case and unfortunately, it would likely be very unpopular with many Labour voters in England. In fact the only likely coalition partners at this point seem to be the Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland, who have said they will help the Conservatives over the line if called upon. But we are still very early in the night. 

[00:14] SB: The early results are indicating that the exit poll may be slightly exaggerating the swing to Labout. Turnout is 5-6% higher than 2015, but the differentials will be critical, and the New Statesman reckons YouGov estimates have been holding in Sunderland and Newcastle. So far election night commentary and predications on the BBC, ITV/STV and Sky are veering in a number of directions at once. Perhasp the most honest response so far has come from Scottish commentator Angela Heggarty: "BREAKING: I don't really know what's going on." All is in flux right now...

[23:46] SB: What about austerity? All the talk so far has been about Brexit, but many of Ekklesia's closest friends and allies have a priority concern for the punishment that is being meted out to disabled people, those on low incomes, the jobless, people facing in-work poverty and the most vulnerable sections of society. There has been an ethical vacuum at the heart of this campaign, with issues of poverty and inequality being little addressed in the media, and marginal in many of the manifestos, which we analysed here

[23:37] SB: In Scotland the exit polls were pretty accurate in 2015. This time the final seat allocation could be sensitive to a fine margin of error. In my seat, Edinburgh North and Leith, Labour should be comfortably looking to re-take the seat if, as the poll suggests, the SNP are set to lose 22 seats (while still winning the Scottish election overall with 34 seats). But early ballot sampling suggests that it is much closer than that. 

[23:21] Simon Barrow (SB) writes: If the exit poll is anything near correct, a huge number of political cards are going to be up in the air in a few hours time. It's still possible that Theresa May could creep over the majority line, but she will have been humiliated and weakened (probably fatally) in the process. Seven weeks ago it looked as if the Conservatives were a shoo-in. But the PM has proved a dismal campaigner, while Jeremy Corbyn has upped his campaign hugely. It looks as if the young have rebelled against the old, and Remainers have rebelled against the Brexit tide, among other things.

However, a word of warning at this stage. Labour sources reckon that the exit poll overestimates their performance by 15 seats, which could be a dealbreaker. And with 11 days to go before the EU negotiations the Conservatives will do everything to hold on. It's going to be a long night... 

[23:11] Jake Cunliffe (JC) writes: What a start to the night. If the 2015 exit poll brought dismay to Labour supporters hoping for at least a share of the government, tonight's predictions suggest a much better night for Labour (and the Lib Dems) than most have thought possible. For the Conservatives, the projected results would be traumatic. No question they will remain the largest party. but it would be a dismal performance having called an election from such a position of strength (nearing 50% of the vote according to some polls). Nothing is known until the results are in, except that the likelihood is that Jeremy Corbyn remains Labour leader, while Theresa May may be in serious trouble. In this context, a mention should be made for Labour politicians and activists for what have been heroic performances on the streets (and online!). 

[22:00] We have published an analysis of the manifestos of nine political parties contesting these elections - not just for today, but as an indicator of where the forces within parliamentary politics lie in the coming weeks and months. You can access that here

Ekklesia's ten 'benchmarks' for working for a better society and voting for the common good, rooted in solid Christian praxis and shared by people of goodwill of different faiths and non-religious convictions, are:

• A commitment to favouring the poorest and most vulnerable

• Actively redressing social and economic injustices and inequalities

• Welcoming the stranger and valuing displaced and marginalised people

• Seeing people, their dignity and rights as the solution not the problem

• Moving from punitive ‘welfare’ to a society where all can genuinely fare well

• Promoting community and neighbourhood empowerment

• Food, education, health, housing, work and sustainable income for all

• Care for planet and people as the basis for human development

• Investing in nonviolent alternatives to war and force as the basis for security

• Transparency, honesty and accountability in public and economic life

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.