General Election 2015: What a Difference a Day Makes – 8 May 2015


To the untrained eye, little has changed. David Cameron is still Prime Minister and George Osborne’s still in charge of the money. Theresa May is still Home Secretary and Philip Hammond remains in post as Foreign Secretary.

But you don’t have to be a politico to realise the truth of it — everything‘s changed.

Exactly 24 hours have passed since polling stations shut their doors and, back then, this “most unpredictable election” still seemed certain to deliver a hung parliament. I will freely admit to having been wildly wrong in many of my election predictions yesterday, perhaps most strikingly where I wrote: “By the time the sun comes up tomorrow, we really will be nonethewiser as to who the Prime Minister will be in a few days’ time.”

The forecast from the (NOP / MORI for BBC / ITV / Sky) polling was released at ten o’clock and placed the Conservatives short of the 323 seats needed for a majority, predicting 316 Tory MPs compared to Labour’s 239. In terms of Cameron’s chances of returning to his Downing Street desk, this comfortable lead (suggesting a return of ten seats more than his party had earnt in 2010) was much stronger than I and others had hitherto been expecting. “Sensational!”, declared Nick Robinson, the BBC Political Editor, “An extraordinary night if – if – that exit-poll is right.”

With so many permutations to consider in this election, all polling was being offered with a word of warning; the lack of widespread prior data on ‘new-entry’ parties like Ukip and the SNP meant the figures were likely to be a little different to reality. Significantly though, there was now virtually no chance of Ed Miliband getting the keys to Number 10 — even if he were to join forces with Nicola Sturgeon’s party, the forecast data indicated that he would still be critically short of the seats he needed. Technically, he could form a minority government, but it would lack credibility.

Following five years of austerity in a Con-Lib coalition, Labour were expected to pick up votes from an electorate persuaded by Red Ed’s promises. Within the party’s manifesto, pledges to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’, raise the minimum wage to £8, and to reduce tuition fees from £9,000 a year to £6,000. Meanwhile, on the subject of tuition fees, the Liberal Democrats were expected to be punished harshly for breaking that infamous promise made five years ago.

Yet no one could have predicted the drastic extent of that punishment, nor could the pollsters have appreciated the effect of the ‘shy Tory’. Admittedly, the first constituencies to declare threw up no surprises (Labour easily held onto Sunderland and Newcastle; the Tories kept Swindon, Putney, and Battersea) — but it wasn’t long before the first shock results started coming through.

Of the 56 seats the Liberal Democrats held five weeks ago, they were left with just eight by the time they woke up this morning (that’s fourteen per cent of the 57 seats they won in 2010). Among their highest-profile losses, Danny Alexander, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Liberal lifer Simon Hughes. Watching the latter’s crushing defeat was, as I tweeted at the time, one of the saddest moments of the night.

Labour also suffered casualties at the hands of the retuning officer: in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander suffered a 26.9 per cent swing to the SNP, being replaced as the constituency’s MP by 20-year-old Glasgow University politics student Mhairi Black. Scottish Labour Leader Jim Murphy was beaten by SNP candidate Kirsten Oswald. The biggest surprise, though, was undeniably Ed Balls‘s failure to get re-elected: the Shadow Chancellor was ousted in Morley and Outwood by Conservative candidate Andrea Jenkyns.

“Any personal disappointment I have at this result is nothing compared to the sense of sorrow I have at the result that Labour has achieved across the UK.”

— Ed Balls, speech on electoral defeat, 8 May 2015

Tory wins became the story of the night: as the early exit poll was revised, to take into account the results already declared, it became clear that the Conservatives would – just – have enough seats to form a majority. For the reds, the net loss of 24 seats may not seem like such a massive hemorrhage, but the loss of 40 seats in Scotland alone marks the virtual collapse of Labour’s support north of the border. (The SNP won a 50 per cent share of the popular vote in Scotland, vs Labour’s 24.3 per cent.) They were lucky to retain even one seat in Scotland: Edinburgh South, by less than six points.

Less than six points ahead, too, was the Conservative Craig Mackinlay against a certain rival candidate in a Kent constituency. By the time this news ‘broke’, it was not so surprising as it might have been — it had been widely suspected for much of the night, but successive recounts delayed its final confirmation. Nigel Farage, the Ukip party leader, had missed out on the South Thanet seat by just shy of 3,000 votes. As such, the wait began to see if he would honour his gambled promise to resign as party leader in this eventuality.

It was 11:23am when the announcement came. “I’m a man of my word,” a visibly tired Farage declared, continuing: “There’s a bit of me that’s disappointed but there’s a bit of me that’s happier than I’ve felt in many, many years.”

With one down, all eyes turned to Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. Both men, contesting their second general election as leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties respectively, were expected to resign today in light of last night’s news. It wasn’t long until news of the first resignation broke.

“The results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared.”, began the red-eyed Clegg, “For that, of course, I must take responsibility, and therefore I announce that I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats.”

Remarks of Nick Clegg —— As Delivered
Resignation Speech After 2015 UK General Election
Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Mall, London
Friday, 8 May 2015

“I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats given the heavy responsibilities we’ve had to bear in government in the most challenging of circumstances. Clearly the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared.

For that, of course, I must take responsibility, and therefore I announce that I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats. A leadership election will now take place according to the party’s rules.

For the last seven years it’s been a privilege, a huge privilege, an unlimited honour, to lead a party of the most resilient, courageous, and remarkable people. The Liberal Democrats are a family and I will always be extremely proud of the warmth, good grace, and good humour which our political family has shown through the ups and downs of recent years. I want to thank every member, ever campaigner, every councillor, and every parliamentarian for the commitment you have shown to our country and to our party.

It is simply heartbreaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their constituents so diligently over so many years abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control.

In 2007 after a night of disappointing election results for our party in Edinburgh, Alex Cole Hamilton said this: if his defeat was part-payment for the ending of child detention, then he accepted it with all his heart.

Those words revealed a selfless dignity which is very rare in politics but common amongst Liberal Democrats. If our losses today are part payment for every family that is more secure because of a job we helped to create, every person with depression who is treated with a compassion they deserve, every child who does a little better in school, every apprentice with a long and rewarding career to look forward to, every gay couple who know that their love is worth no less than anyone else’s and every pensioner with a little more freedom and dignity in retirement then I hope at least our losses can be endured with a little selfless dignity too.

We will never know how many lives we changed for the better because we had the courage to step up at a time of crisis. But we have done something that cannot be undone because there can be no doubt that we government with Britain a far stronger, fairer, greener, and more liberal country than it was five years ago.

However unforgiving the judgement has been at the ballot box, I believe the history books will judge our party kindly for the service we sought to provide to the nation at a time of great economic difficulty and for the policies and values which we brought to bear in government.

Opportunity, fairness, and liberty, which I believe will stand the test of time. To have served my country at a time of crisis is an honour that will stay with me forever. I hope those who are granted the opportunity to serve our country in government now and in the future will recognise the privilege and responsibility that they’ve been given. It’s the greatest thing they’ll ever do.

It is of course too early to give a considered account of why we have suffered catastrophic losses we have, and the party will have to reflect on these in the time ahead. One thing seems to me is clear: liberalism, here, as well as across Europe, is not faring well against the politics of fear.

Years of remorseless economic and social hardship following the crash in 2008 and the grinding insecurities of globalisation have led for people to reach to new certainties: the politics of identity, of nationalism, of us versus them is now on the rise.

It is clear that in constituency after constituency north of the border the beguiling appeal of Scottish Nationalism has swept all before it and south of the border a fear about what that means for the United Kingdom has strengthened English conservatism too. This now brings our country to a very perilous point in our history where grievance and fear combine to drive our different communities apart.

I hope that our leaders across the United Kingdom realise the disastrous consequences for our way of life and the integrity of our United Kingdom if they continue to appeal to grievance rather than generosity and fear rather than hope. It’s not exaggeration to say that in the absence of strong and statesmanlike leadership Britain’s place in Europe and the world and the continued existence of our United Kingdom itself is now in grave jeopardy. The cruellest irony of all is that it is exactly at this time that British liberalism, that fine, noble tradition that believes we are stronger together and weaker apart is needed more than ever before.

Fear and grievance have won, liberalism has lost. But it is more precious than ever and we must keep fighting for it. That is both the great challenge and the great cause that my successor will have to face. I will always give my unstinting support for all those who continue to keep the flame of British liberalism alive.

On the morning of the most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats since our party was founded it is easy to imagine that there is no road back, but there is – because there is no path to a fairer, greener, freer Britain without British liberalism showing the way. This is a very dark hour for our party but we cannot and will not allow decent liberal values to be extinguished overnight.

Our party will come back, our party will win again, it will take patience, resilience and grit. That is what has built our party before and will rebuild it again. Thank you.”

— Nick Clegg, resignation speech, 8 May 2015

Half an hour later, it was Miliband’s turn to do the same. In his speech, the outgoing Labour Leader made reference to one of the most unexpected side-effects of the campaign period, ‘weird Ed’ becoming a sex symbol: “Thank you for the selfies, thank you for the support, and thank you for the most unlikely cult of the 21st century, Milifandom.”

Remarks of Ed Miliband —— As Delivered
Resignation Speech After 2015 UK General Election
Labour Party Headquarters, One Brewer’s Green, London
Friday, 8 May 2015

“Thank you for your kindness, friends. Friends, this is not the speech I wanted to give today because I believe that Britain needed a Labour government. I still do, but the public voted otherwise last night. Earlier today I rang David Cameron to congratulate him. I take absolute and total responsibility for the result and our defeat at this election.

I am so sorry for all of those colleagues who lost their seats. Ed Balls, Jim Murphy, Margaret Curran, Douglas Alexander, and all the MPs and indeed candidates who were defeated. They are friends, colleagues, and standard bearers for our party. They always have been, and they always will be.

I also want to congratulate all our candidates who were elected yesterday and who will help take our party forward as well.

I want to thank those people who ran our campaign. It was the most united, cohesive, and enjoyable campaign I’ve ever been involved in. I want to thank Douglas Alexander, Lucy Powell, Spencer Livermore, and most of all, all of you, the incredible team at the Labour Party.

I also today want to thank the incredible team of Labour Party members, activists, and all those people who’ve pounded the streets over the past months.

Friends: Britain needs a strong Labour Party. Britain needs a Labour Party that can rebuild after this defeat so we can have a government that stands up for working people again. Now it’s time for someone else to take forward the leadership of this party, so I’m tendering my resignation taking part after this afternoon’s commemoration of VE Day at the Cenotaph. I want to do so straight away because the party needs to have an open and honest debate about the right way forward without constraint.

Let me say that Harriet Harman is the best Deputy Leader that anyone could hope for. I worked for her more than 20 years ago, I am proud to have had her as my deputy for my term of leadership.

She will take over until a new leader is elected. For me, I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with Justine, Daniel, and Sam. But before I need to say thank you to the British people. Thank you to the people who’ve met me on train stations and colleges, in workplaces and schools. Thank you for sharing your stories from me, I have learnt so much for you.

It has been an enormous privilege. Thank you for the selfies, thank you for the support, and thank you for the most unlikely cult of the 21st century, Milifandom. Second, I want to address those who voted Labour yesterday.

Today you’ll feel disappointed, even bleak but while we may have lost the election, the argument of our campaign will not go away: the issue of our unequal country will not go away, this is the challenge of our time, the fight goes on, and whoever is our new leader, I know Labour will keep making the case for a country that works for working people once again.

Third, I believe in our United Kingdom, not just because it is our country, but because it is the best way of serving the working people of our country. I believe that there is more that unites us than divides us across the whole United Kingdom and all of us in the months and years ahead must rise to the challenge of keeping our country together.

Finally, I want to say something to my party. Thank you to you. Thank you for the privilege. I joined this party aged 17. I never dreamed I would lead it. It has been an incredible force for progress from workers’ rights to the NHS to the minimum wage.

No other party in British politics can boast these achievements and yes, it will be a force for progress and change once again, To all the Labour party members you’re amazing people, I thank all of you today. I am truly sorry I did not succeed. I have done my best for nearly five years.

Now you need to show your responsibility. Your responsibility, not simply to mourn our defeat: pick yourself up, and continue the fight. We’ve come back before and this party will come back again.

If I may I say to everyone in our party: conduct this leadership election with the same decency, civility, and comradeship that we believe is the way the country should be run.

I believe I have brought a culture to this party, an ability to have disagreement without being disagreeable. I urge everyone to keep this in mind in the months ahead.

Finally, I want to say this. The course of progress and social justice is never simple or straightforward. Change happens because people don’t give up, they don’t take no for an answer, they keep demanding change.

This is my faith: where we see injustice, we must tackle it. In a couple of hours I will no longer be leading this party, but you see, for me, that has never been the only way to achieve change, because I believe it isn’t simply leaders who achieve change, it is people who make change happen. I will never give up on that idea, I will never give up on that cause, I will never give up on fighting for the Britain I believe in.

That faith will always be my faith, that fight will always be my fight, that cause will always be my cause – and I will always be there in that cause with all of you. Thank you very much.”

— Ed Miliband, resignation speech, 8 May 2015

In his victory speech, the Prime Minister laid out plans for devolution and confirmed his intentions to call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

Remarks of David Cameron —— As Delivered
Victory Speech After 2015 UK General Election
Downing Street, London
Friday, 8 May 2015

“I’ve just been to see Her Majesty the Queen, and I will now form a majority Conservative government.

I’ve been proud to lead the first coalition government in 70 years, and I want to thank all those who worked so hard to make it a success; and in particular, on this day, Nick Clegg. Elections can be bruising clashes of ideas and arguments, and a lot of people who believe profoundly in public service have seen that service cut short. Ed Miliband rang me this morning to wish me luck with the new government; it was a typically generous gesture from someone who is clearly in public service for all the right reasons.

The government I led did important work: it laid the foundations for a better future, and now we must build on them. I truly believe we’re on the brink of something special in our country; we can make Britain a place where a good life is in reach for everyone who is willing to work and do the right thing. Our manifesto is a manifesto for working people, and as a majority government we will be able to deliver all of it; indeed, it is the reason why I think majority government is more accountable.

Three million apprenticeships; more help with childcare; helping 30 million people cope with the cost of living by cutting their taxes; building homes that people are able to buy and own; creating millions more jobs that give people the chance of a better future. And yes, we will deliver that in/out referendum on our future in Europe.

As we conduct this vital work, we must ensure that we bring our country together. As I said in the small hours of this morning, we will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom. That means ensuring this recovery reaches all parts of our country: from north to south, from east to west. And indeed, it means rebalancing our economy, building that “Northern Powerhouse”. It means giving everyone in our country a chance, so no matter where you’re from you have the opportunity to make the most of your life. It means giving the poorest people the chance of training, a job, and hope for the future. It means that for children who don’t get the best start in life, there must be the nursery education and good schooling that can transform their life chances. And of course, it means bringing together the different nations of our United Kingdom.

I have always believed in governing with respect. That’s why in the last Parliament, we devolved power to Scotland and Wales, and gave the people of Scotland a referendum on whether to stay inside the United Kingdom. In this Parliament I will stay true to my word and implement as fast as I can the devolution that all parties agreed for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Governing with respect means recognising that the different nations of our United Kingdom have their own governments, as well as the United Kingdom government. Both are important, and indeed with our plans, the governments of these nations will become more powerful, with wider responsibilities. In Scotland, our plans are to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world with important powers over taxation. And no constitutional settlement will be complete, if it did not offer, also, fairness to England.

When I stood here 5 years ago, our country was in the grip of an economic crisis. Five years on, Britain is so much stronger, but the real opportunities lie ahead. Everything I’ve seen over the last 5 years, and indeed, during this election campaign, has proved once again that this is a country with unrivalled skills and creativeness; a country with such good humour, and such great compassion, and I’m convinced that if we draw on all of this, then we can take these islands, with our proud history, and build an even prouder future.

Together we can make Great Britain greater still. Thank you.”

— David Cameron, victory speech, 8 May 2015


Cameron’s kind words about Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband were just as well: very soon afterwards, he was again standing side-by-side with them, in their last act together. Commemorating VE Day, it was pleasing to see politics finally put aside as they marked the sacrifices given 70 years ago.

In the post I published exactly 24 hours ago, I was wrong on two counts. First, in my assumption that right now we’d be in a period of intense coalition talks, and second in my belief that Nicola Sturgeon would quickly allude to a second referendum. For what it’s worth (on the evidence of my failings yesterday, probably very little), I predict Chuka Ummuna to be the next Labour party Leader, and Tim Farron to succeed in the equivalent Lib Dem role. But all that will likely prove its own drama, and it can wait for another day.

There is one thing I was right about, though, but you’ll have to take my word for it as I didn’t write it down anywhere beforehand. Here in my home constituency of Maidenhead, I anticipated Labour coming second for the first time in the constituency’s history. This would not be so much down to any failure on the part of the Tories (actually, I was correct too in expecting Theresa May’s vote share to increase, despite the rise of Ukip), but rather by the strength of the reds’ candidate. Fresh-faced Charles Smith led a far better campaign than Pat McDonald organised in 2010, and I expect he will go on to great things in the future. Just not here. Here, in a true Blue town, Labour was still 53.9 points behind the winning May, while Lib Dem Tony Hill’s campaign felt tired throughout and as such his 9.9 per cent share was 18.3 per cent down on last time.

These last 24 hours have been butcherous, thrilling, and entirely unpredictable — the complete opposite of how things felt this time yesterday. Honestly, what a difference a day makes.

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.