We think it will sum up how you're feeling about the polls right now.
- Copyright: BBC
David Cameron makes the long nighttime drive back to Downing Street, to the soundtrack of the BBC's Election 2015. Watch it hereCopyright: BBC
Newsnight producerCopyright: BBC
Labour members should not be surprised by the party’s election meltdown and the party must now abandon its “socialist” policies, a former cabinet minister has told Newsnight.
In an interview with Chief Correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, Lord John Hutton criticised the party’s “tribal politics” and called for a complete rethink of its approach in order to mount a recovery in 2020.
He said: “Nobody in the Labour party should be surprised by the result.
“One thing is pretty self-evident now: the policy offer we made in this election really has got very few takers. It's a dwindling appeal, not even our core vote is comfortable with it any longer.
“We've got to be much more progressive in our politics and much less tribal.
Lord Hutton called on candidates in the imminent leadership election to focus on the “radical centre ground”, adding: “There is a dwindling appetite for the old school socialist menu we had on offer and we've really got to be grown up, take a long, hard look at ourselves and ask what sort of party we want to be.
“We're back to where we were almost 30 years ago...in the 80s...most of us thought we'd never be there again, that we'd learned those lessons. Apparently not.”
Part of the interview will air on the programme at 22:30, and the full interview by Laura Kuenssberg and producer Jess Brammar is on Newsnight’s YouTube channel here.
Newsnight Election ProducerCopyright: BBC
We knew that it was likely that more than one party leader would have to fall on their swords, and so it came to pass. It's hard to see how in the forseeable future we will face another occasion when three main party leaders resign on the same day.
To mark the moment, here is a selection of concession speeches from the main party leaders since 1983. The Michael Foot one, in particular, is worth watching to spot similarities in theme between it and what Ed Miliband said today. The Kinnock one is much more bullish and in keeping with a man who clearly felt he had unfinished business with the electorate.
1983: Michael Foot
1987: Neil Kinnock
1997: John Major
2001: William Hague
2005: Michael Howard
Excuse the poor picture and sound quality for some of them.
We know the entire polling industry - and frankly most of the media, including this programme - woke up this morning with whole factory farmfulls of eggs on our collective faces. With the notable exception of the oracular John Curtice and his exit poll team, we got it spectacularly wrong.
My colleague Evan Davis has already apologised this morning to Treasury Minister David Gauke for ridiculing him when he insisted on talking about how the Tories were confident of getting a majority on our show on Tuesday. In truth we probably owe apologies to several other Tory politicians who we accused of delusional thinking when they launched into their own speeches about securing an actual majority.
But did the politicians themselves do any better at predicting today's result? This morning I bumped into one senior Tory and asked him.
He grinned and pulled out an A4 spiral notebook from his bag. "I wrote this list on Saturday," he said, pointing to a page with three columns of seats written in neat handwriting. One for seats he thought the Tories would hold, one for those he thought they'd lose and one for those he thought they might pick up.
Scrawled in a circle in one corner of the page was the total tally: 305. A second page showed a similar reckoning for Lib Dem seats. The number circled there was 15 and he pointed to a half dozen or so seats in the Lib Dem hold column which had been struck through: among them Lewes and David Laws's Yoevil.
The Tory figure said his predictions were based on reports from their campaigners on the ground, rather than polling. They were wrong too, but only by 26. By comparison the central Conservative forecast of the high-tech, Nate Silver-endorsed Newsnight Index was a gulp-inducing 50 out. Maybe we need to invest in some spiral notebooks for next time.
Newsnight Deputy Editor
We're beginning to get a sense of what the green benches will look like, come May 18th when the new Parliament is summoned. There will be a record 191 women sitting on them. 42 won't be white and fewer will be privately educated. UCL have being doing this research and there's a lot more interesting detail here from the Guardian.
The 56 MPs from the SNP are likely to stand out. By my count 20 are women and they include Kirsten Oswald, who only joined the party last year, and high profile Scottish business woman Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. There's a good break from the Scotsman here.
Newsnight Deputy Editor
This is a really interesting map that I spotted from Dods, via @JoeMurphyLondon. Its the success of UKIP in seats from the North to the South West that stands out. They were second in 107 seats with 12% of the national vote. And as the Staggers points out, that's a problem for Labour as much as the Conservatives. In seats like Oldham West and Royton, South Shields and Rotherham UKIP won between 20% and 30% of the vote.
Newsnight producerCopyright: BBC
The year 1983 is being cited a lot today, the odd Labourite consoling themselves that at least last night's performance wasn't as bad as that famous drubbing.
True Labour has more seats than it did in that nadir year, 232 today compared to 209 then.
But then there was a very clear explanation: the SDP. Broadly, the left of centre vote was split down the middle delivering Margaret Thatcher a bumper majority. Labour survived as the second party and over the coming decades managed to claw back much of that lost support.
Yes the SNP has badly affected Labour's fortunes in Scotland, reducing the Labour tally substantially. But Labour has no such excuse in England. There, the party simply badly trailed the Conservatives in seat after seat, the voters finding the party and its prospectus unpalatable.
The headline numbers are better than the past but arguably the questions the party has to ask about itself are even graver than then.
P.S. Of course, Labour MPs can at least console themselves that they don't have to go as far back as the Lib Dems do to find a comparably lamentable performance. The Liberals/Lib Dems haven't done this badly since Jeremy Thorpe led the party to win a mere six seats in 1970, forty-five years ago,
UKIP now have fewer MPs than they did before the election.
But there is a silver lining.
After the 2010 election, UKIP came first in 0 constituencies, second in 0 constituencies, and third in 4.
This election they came first in 1 constituency, second in 120 constituencies, third in 364 constituencies.
That means in 120 constituencies, UKIP can now credibly claim to be the tactical vote to keep x party out. Don't be surprised if some of those seconds turn into firsts next time around.
Newsnight Policy EditorCopyright: Getty
A party that came in fifth in 2010, winning more than 500,000 votes for 338 candidates. In 2015, the British National Party won 1,667 votes. Soundly beaten by the Monster Raving Loony Party.
Samantha Cameron appears to be so pleased with the night's results that she's decided to wear them.Copyright: BBCCopyright: BBC
So now, at last, we know - Nigel Farage did not carry Thanet.
UKIP's performance this election will provoke serious soul-searching.
On the latest figures, a party that picked up 12.6% of the vote nationwide has garnered a single seat, whereas the SNP, with 4.8% have got 56, and the Lib Dems with 7.7% have managed just 8.
When we spoke to Nigel Farageas he emerged from his hotel this morning for the long-overdue count, he was characteristically forthright about the result.
He said that the relative performance of his party and the SNP showed that the system was broken, and that it needs to change. He said the people who have voted UKIP would be angry that they were not going to be represented in Parliament, despite turning out in their millions; he even seemed to betray a bit of that anger himself.
What happens to Farage now is still unclear.
Questioned this morning on whether he would stay on in spite of his promise, he told us - slightly less directly - that he was a man who hadn't broken his word yet.
The full answer to that, and what his party's result means for the future of the electoral system are just two more of the legion of fascinating questions thrown up by this astonishing night.
Newsnight Policy EditorCopyright: BBC
This graph shows a very simple idea. It is, in effect, the proportion of the House of Commons seats that would be allocated differently were we to have the purest of pure PR systems. This is very crude, but it gives you a sense of the extent to which First Past the Post is influencing our politics.
The 2015 number is based on non-final results, and not all the parties. But it won't change a lot. You can see this result is roughly in line with other recent results on this measure. But there has been one very big change.
This is how FPTP affected the 2010 results by party. You can see how the Lib Dems used to be heaviest losers. Now, it's UKIP. The SNP has swung from being a net loser to a net gainer.Copyright: BBC
Labour's FPTP advantage has taken a bit of a beating, too. You can think of their performance last night as, in effect, being a redistribution of vote share from where it efficiently won them seats to a distribution where it was less efficient.Copyright: BBC
So what does this all mean? The winners and losers from FPTP have changed since 2010, so 'Kippers may put the issue higher up their list than before. But the total size of the FPTP effect isn't unusually high.
Here's an at-a-glance of what happened to the Lib Dem seats last night. It shows the seats they held yesterday in order of vulnerability, who won them last night, and who the primary challenger was from 2010. Takeaway: a Lib Dem collapse where the votes went equally to Labour and Conservatives would give more seats to the Conservatives. Chuck in the SNP and here we are (St Ives still to come).
My colleague Marc Williams this morning mused on whether the Conservatives might have a few problems with rebellious backbenchers.
Perhaps his party might be rather receptive to a charm offensive after such a remarkable victory.
In the spirit of helpfulness to our new (old) Prime Minister, here are the 81 people Cameron needs to convince to consistently back his tiny majority in the House of Commons before the promised European referendum gets going (they all rebelled on a key vote on Europe in 2011 - and almost all are still Conservative MPs):
Stuart Andrew (Pudsey), Steven Baker (Wycombe), John Baron (Basildon & Billericay), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Brian Binley (Northampton South), Bob Blackman (Harrow East), Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West), Andrew Bridgen (Leicestershire North West), Steve Brine (Winchester), Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Dan Byles (Warwickshire North), Douglas Carswell (Clacton), Bill Cash (Stone), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), James Clappison (Hertsmere), Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford), David Davies (Monmouth), Philip Davies (Shipley), David Davis (Haltemprice & Howden), Nick de Bois (Enfield North), Caroline Dinenage (Gosport), Nadine Dorries (Bedfordshire Mid), Richard Drax (Dorset South), Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster), Lorraine Fullbrook (South Ribble), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), James Gray (Wiltshire North), Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry), Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne & Sheppey), George Hollingbery (Meon Valley), Adam Holloway (Gravesham), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich & Essex North), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Chris Kelly (Dudley South), Andrea Leadsom (Northamptonshire South), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Karen Lumley (Redditch), Jason McCartney (Colne Valley), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), Stephen McPartland (Stevenage), Anne Main (St Albans), Patrick Mercer (Newark), Nigel Mills (Amber Valley), Anne-Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), James Morris (Halesowen & Rowley Regis), Stephen Mosley (Chester, City of), Sheryll Murray (Cornwall South East), Caroline Nokes (Romsey & Southampton North), David Nuttall (Bury North), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), Priti Patel (Witham), Andrew Percy (Brigg & Goole), Mark Pritchard (Wrekin, The), Mark Reckless (Rochester & Strood), John Redwood (Wokingham), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Somerset North East), Simon Reevell (Dewsbury), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), Henry Smith (Crawley), John Stevenson (Carlisle), Bob Stewart (Beckenham), Gary Streeter (Devon South West), Julian Sturdy (York Outer), Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth & Horncastle), Justin Tomlinson (Swindon North), Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight), Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes), Charles Walker (Broxbourne), Robin Walker (Worcester), Heather Wheeler (Derbyshire South), Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley), John Whittingdale (Maldon), Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes)
- Copyright: PA
Nearly 4 million votes, a national share of around 12%, might seem like a pretty good night for a small political party. You can understand the outrage then, as UKIP wakes up this morning to find it has been rewarded for its efforts with just one seat in the House of Commons.
To rub salt in the wounds, in Scotland the SNP took 56 seats with just 1.5 million votes. The Greens might have cause to feel similarly aggrieved, with their highest ever share of the vote (around 1 million people) landing them just one seat in Westminster.
On those numbers, the case for electoral reform might seem pressing. How can it be fair that so many votes across the country yielded such disproportionate results for the smaller parties?
But here’s the thing. Before this election we were told that First Past the Post, the system the UK uses for elections to Parliament, had reached its sell-by date.
Its main purpose was decisive election results leading to strong, decisive governments. In a new multi-party system, where all the evidence indicated a second hung parliament in a row, it had ceased to function as it was intended. There was going to be a reckoning.
Except that what we’ve seen in reality is that FPTP has done exactly what it says on the tin.
Just as the smaller parties howl in anguish, Conservatives across the country revel in a decisive victory.
Their decision to vote against electoral reform in 2011 looks to have been justified.
So howl all you like, but there’s very little chance that electoral reform will be featuring on this government’s agenda – on the contrary, FPTP suits it rather well.
Nigel Farage has just failed to win Thanet South. But, on tonight's evidence, perhaps he stood in the wrong part of the country. Look at this regional breakdown in England:
North East: Up 14.2%Yorks & Humber: Up 13.2%East Midlands: Up 12.5%East: Up 12%West Mids: Up 11.9%North West: Up 10.5%South East: Up 10.4%South West: Up 9.2%
Newsnight Election Producer
David Cameron faces the prospect of a slender Commons majority, perhaps around three. I'm sure the Prime Minister will have a few hours of basking in the utter improbability of the result that he has achieved. Shortly afterwards, it's likely he will turn his mind to who should be his Chief Whip. Whoever it is, they will possibly have the most important job in Government.
Look at the rebellion rate (according to Publicwhip.org) for just six Tory MPs in the last Parliament. All of them have just been re-elected:
- Philip Hollobone: 19.9%
- Philip Davies: 19.5%
- Christopher Chope: 18.8%
- David Nuttall: 16.9%
- Peter Bone: 15.2%
- David Davis: 11.7%
Now, a couple of observations. First, a great number of the rebellions by these men were Coalition-related: it is highly likely that the programme offered by a Conservative majority Government would be more to their taste (but not necessarily).
Second, the very fact that the Commons arithmetic is so tight for the Conservatives will (you would have thought) lead to a greater sense of jeopardy for any MP who is looking to rebel. This is especially true given the mechanics of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which allows for Governments to swap without any need for an election.
This is definitely to be filed under "One of Them Good Problems" for Mr Cameron at the moment. He might take a different view when he has to summon the Chief Whip to his office for the third night in a row.
Newsnight PresenterCopyright: PA
In 1992 the polls got it very wrong: the last ones before the election were showing a Labour lead of one point; in the event, the Conservatives were seven and a half points ahead.
In 2015, the error is not quite that large but the crisis for professional pollsters is of a similar magnitude to 1992 in that a systematic error has been made, and whatever it is, all pollsters seem to have made it.
Back in 1992, the polling industry and experts all analysed the problem. Here's one study.
It concluded: "It seems the polls' downfall was caused partly by people not voting in the way they said they would ("switching" and "turnout"), and partly by the way pollsters treat the "don't know"s and "won't say"s, but perhaps mainly by selection or nonresponse biases".
My guess is that when the inquiries are finished this time, the conclusion will be the same - that there was no significant late swing (a proposition supported by YouGov, who obtained the same result on polling day as they had registered the day before).
The problem is, as it was in 1992, that the polling samples are somehow not representative.
If that is right, it suggests that the polls were not only wrong at the end of this campaign, they were probably wrong at the start of it. There is no reason to think they started off fine and suddently went off the rails.
To quote again from the 1992 study above: "With the benefit of hindsight, it appears that the Conservatives were actually ahead throughout the campaign, and would have won whenever the election had been held in that period."
I suspect we'll come to the same view this time.
If we do, that implies, there is no reason to think it was the Conservative campaign that won it for the party, and no reason to think it was the SNP/nationalism card they played.
They were ahead all along but we didn't simply didn't realise it.
In many ways this is far worse defeat for Labour than in 2010. On one level that's obvious - the Party won fewer seats, but the details behind that are far more damaging.
In 2010, despite an abysmal share of the vote, Labour could take comfort from two crumbs.
First, a sense that whilst they had lost, the Conservatives "hadn't really won" and secondly a seat total, that despite a sub-30% vote share, has held up well.
Neither of those crumbs is available this morning.
Add in the fact that the party has been virtually wiped out in an historical heartland and that a boundary review is now likely and the task before the party begins to look huge.
This all comes despite the fact that the party waged what was generally regarded as as strong short campaign. It appears in the end that didn't count for much and it looks like Labour's much hailed "ground game" (a belief that the party is better at turning out its supporters on the day) didn't yield the same sort of results as in 2010.
These are the sort of issues that will be poured over in the days ahead as Labour begins an inquest into the scale of their defeat.
On Tuesday's Newsnight, I had a tetchy exchange with Conservative Treasury minister David Gauke and the shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds. I wanted to discuss post-election hung parliament situations with them; they said they didn't want to get into hypotheticals. I accused them of being unreasonable in not addressing likely scenarios.
I don't think my questions were stupid, but let it be acknowledged that this has been one of those days that gives politicians some justification for batting away our "what if" questions.
I was privileged enough to see the exit poll numbers 10 minutes early last night - and frankly, I was sceptical about them. Turns out, they were actually small "c" conservative.
Two things surprised me: 1) The extent of the Lib Dem collapse 2) The failure of Labour to take Conservative seats.
Now almost all the results are in, we can take a deeper dive into the numbers behind each of these.
1) The Lib Dem collapse
The Lib Dems claimed that incumbency and local popularity would save 20 or 30 MPs from the electoral onslaught. In a sense, they weren't wrong.
In seats where there was an incumbent, the party lost an average of 14.7% of vote share. Where the incumbent was standing down, they lost an average of 22.5% of vote share. Incumbency worked - it just wasn't enough.
The picture was more or less equally grim against Conservatives and Labour. Where they were second against the Conservatives they were down 18% - against Labour 20%. The onslaught in their heartlands in the South West was particularly brutal - minus 20% share.
And it was this that really did for the Lib Dems. The seats facing Labour and in Scotland were always known to be weak. But evidence from council elections suggested they might have had better luck against the Conservatives. They didn't. And now Nick Clegg (perhaps not for much longer) leads a party that could travel in two cabs.
2) Labour's failure against the Conservatives
Labour were down 25% in Glasgow - and 18% in Scotland. They needed to make big gains against the Tories in England. And they didn't.
They did well in London - up 7%. And they picked up a handful of seats there - but not enough. Look at Battersea - they should have at least made ground there, and they didn't.
They did OK in the heartlands - up 3.5% against the Tories in the North East, and 6% in the North West. The figure for England and Wales overall was actually up 2% points against the Conservatives. But here's the rub. In Conservative held seats - seats they needed to take - Labour were actually down 0.7% against their opponents.
What do all these numbers mean? It means Labour piled on some votes, but in all the wrong places. In an election where they needed to reach out beyond the base, this looks a lot like a (perhaps unintentional) core vote strategy. The Tories were simply that much more effective in the marginals.
Newsnight Political Editor
Neal Lawson, of Compass, has just got in touch about "existential" and "cultural" crisis for Labour.
He thinks it's so bad that the party should consider changing its name.
The party "should set up an independent inquiry to examine every aspect of the party"
He also says the party should consider:
- backing proportional representation
- putting together a German style CDU/CSU relationship with the SNP
- building a progressive alliance with the Greens and Social Liberals
Economics correspondentCopyright: getty
The first rule of analysing markets is "never over-analyse one day's trading". So we have to be especially careful at over-analysing a few hours trading. But...
The markets are in a cheerful mood. The pound is up and shares are up.
For some individual shares (utilities, banks, etc) this reflects the fact that a Labour-led government would have hit their profits. But in general, the tone of market chatter this morning is relief that the outcome is clear.
Days of uncertainty as coalition talks rumbled up on had been priced into assets. That now isn't going to happen.
But the first analysts noted today also highlight the medium term pressures that the election might place on the pound: increased uncertainty over whether the UK will stay in Europe and whether the UK itself will stay together.
Newsnight producerCopyright: PA
It was a night of shocks from the very moment the exit poll emerged and the sharp intakes of breath did not abate.
Some of the biggest names in UK politics have lost their seats in parliament.
Here’s a rundown of the biggest scalps taken overnight – and how they took the news.
Look away now, Liberal Democrats.
Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat (Twickenham)
The outgoing Secretary of State for Business, Twickenham’s MP since 1997, said: "We were hit by a very well organised national campaign based on people's fear of a Labour government and the Scottish nationalists and we will see in the days that follow what are the implications."
Ed Balls, Labour (Morley and Outwood)
The man who would have been chancellor – now dumped from office by about 400 votes - said: “Any personal disappointment I have at this result is as nothing as compared to the sense of sorrow I have at the result Labour has achieved ... and the sense of concern I have about the future.''
Douglas Alexander, Labour (Paisley and Renfrewshire)
The SNP’s Mhairi Black, Britain’s youngest MP in centuries at just 20 years old, stormed into Alexander’s seat with an enormous 27% swing. The outgoing Labour shadow Foreign Secretary said: "Scotland has chosen to oppose this Conservative government but not place that trust in the Labour Party. It will be our responsibility to re-win that trust in the months and years ahead.”
Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)
The former Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury on being swallowed by the SNP wave: “I will always be proud of the difference I and my party have made to the country in the last five years.”
Jim Murphy, Labour (East Renfrewshire)
The Scottish Labour leader, booted from office for the first time in 18 years, said: “The fight goes on and our cause continues. The Scottish Labour party has been around for more than a century. A hundred years from tonight we will still be around."
Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat (Kingston and Surbiton)
In post since 1997, the outgoing Energy Secretary said the Lib Dems “paid some price” for joining a coalition government but blamed his defeat on “Conservative warnings” of a Labour-SNP coalition.
Charles Kennedy, Liberal Democrat (Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
“The greatest privilege of my public life over these past 32 years has to be being entrusted with the responsibility of representing this constituency. "That is thanks to a generation and more of voters who have extended that trust to me and I hope looking back over those 32 years they will feel that it was trust well placed.''
Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat (Bermondsey and Old Southwark)
After 32 years in the Commons, the former deputy leader and London mayoral candidate is out of office at the hands of Labour.
George Galloway, Respect (Bradford West)
After sweeping into the former Labour stronghold in a 2012 by-election, Bradford West last night returned from whence it came. Galloway described Bradford as a “special place full of special people.” So is Galloway gone for good?
"I'm going off now to plan my next campaign."
Nigel Farage, UKIP (Thanet South)
The UKIP leader has promised to resign if he failed to win the Thanet South speech. Making his concession speech after loosing to the Conservative candidate by more than 2,000 votes he contrasted UKIP's fortunes - 1 seat with 4 million votes - with that of the SNP: 56 seats for 50% of the Scottish vote. He said UKIP would fiight for electoral reform but "personally I feel an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders. I've never felt happier."
Newsnight Election Producer
The UKIP line to take this morning is very much that the First Past the Post voting system has proven very cruel to them. At the time of writing, it looks like around 12% of the national vote is going to translate to just a single MP.
The most striking parallel would be the SDP in 1983. In that election, an insurgent party looked like it posed an existential threat to both of the two main parties. In the end, over 25% of the vote (just two points behind Labour) resulted in just 23 SDP (including Liberals) MPs.
Like today, the airwaves were filled with the likes of Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams and David Owen bewailing the vagaries of the FPTP system. The problem for UKIP, as with the SDP in 1983, is that you now have the prospect of a majority Conservative government that will have no interest in reopening that particular issue.
A more hopeful analogue for UKIP is their tremendous performance in many seats, particularly in the north of England, where they have taken second place (around 90). This mirrors similar performance by the SDP which presaged the eventual emergence of the Liberal Democrats as genuine challengers to Labour in many major northern cities.
So, a disappointing crop for UKIP as it stands. Give it two more electoral cycles, however, and we could see some pretty impressive fruit from today's results.
Newsnight Chief Correspondent
Who next? Ed Miliband is now almost certain to stand down in the next couple of hours. For Labour the story of their terrible night is rapidly turning into the search for a new leader. So who will that be? Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary is almost certain to run. He is popular with the party membership and has spent a lot of time and energy pressing the flesh in the last couple of years. Both he and another almost inevitable candidate, Chuka Umunna, even before this election have raised eyebrows inside the party at the work they have put in, preparing the ground with members and the unions for potential bids.
Then there are the possibles. Yvette Cooper, before the election, was still thought not to have made up her mind over whether to run. That decision has been made perhaps a little easier as her husband, Ed Balls, has lost his seat. She is certainly potentially in the frame, along with two lesser known names too move in too - Liz Kendall and Dan Jarvis - two MPs who were only elected in 2010 for the first time, but two who have been tipped by their colleagues on various occasions as potential future leaders. This could be their moment. But whoever is in the job, they face a monumental task.
Newsnight Policy EditorCopyright: AFP
A big question for the Conservatives, now looking at a majority, is what they will do with their manifesto.
There are parts of it that, a day or so ago, were assumed to have been included as bargaining chips for coalition negotiation or to make life awkward for Labour.
Will they survive?
The big one is the decision to balance the current budget in 2017-18 and to run a surplus by the end of the parliament. This is a difficult plan to execute, and rests on some tough tightening.
It rests on their ability to raise £5bn from tax avoidance and £12bn from benefit cuts by 2017-18, and to cut lumps out of defence spending, for example.
Some policies, like the extension of Right to Buy to housing association properties and a "tax-lock" law, promising no rise in a certain group of taxes, are other candidates for a quiet killing-off.
The Tory approach to Scotland is another big unknown. With only one seat in the country, how would a Tory single-party government deal with it? There is an odd wrinkle in this: full fiscal autonomy.
This is an aim for the SNP: in effect, it would mean Holyrood taking control of tax and spend decisions. Local tax (including oil) would cover local spending. It is a step towards full independence. But it is a pledge the unionist Tories might work pretty hard to give to them - even if the SNP gets cold feet.
Fiscal autonomy would require Scotland to cut spending or raise taxes. And not by a small margin - the IFS estimates that the Scottish government would need to raise a further £9.7bn a year by 2019-20 to maintain the same budget balance as the rest of the UK.
That £9.7bn is money that would otherwise be paid from the rest of the union into Scotland, so the Treasury might like it.
And, the Tories might calculate, having to impose a bit of local austerity, just as the rest of Britain gets spending growth, might finally knock the wind out of the SNP.
As I write this, 12 hours after I sat down in the BBC’s election studio last night, the Conservatives are poised to win an overall majority after an extraordinary night.
Amazingly, as things stand, they did this with a NET LOSS of 3 seats from Labour.
Labour took 10 seats off the Conservatives – and the Conservatives 7 from Labour.
So how did the Tories do it? It was driven by the two real stories of this evening.
Firstly, the SNP’s extraordinary rise from 6 to 56 seats.
Secondly, what can only be described as a collapse for the Lib Dems down to a forecast 8 from 57 in 2010.
The problem for Labour was that the SNP rise meant they were already 40 odd seats down in Scotland.
And the Lib Dem collapse disproportionately benefited the Conservatives. Of 57 Lib Dem seats, only 17 were Labour facing – and of them only 11 were outside Scotland.
Gaining 11 seats from the Lib Dems wasn’t enough to counter the bloodbath north of the border for Labour.
And the Conservatives took the upside of that Lib Dem collapse. As I write they have already gained more than 20 seats from their coalition partners.
So in a sense, it was a remarkably simple story. The Lib Dems collapsed – which disproportionately benefited the Conservatives. The SNP surged – disproportionately punishing everyone but the Conservatives. And the Con Lab fight was a score draw. The result? A lot of happy tories.
Two days ago I wrote about our forecast for the Newsnight Index. I said that we might well be wrong, but we hoped to avoid looking foolish.
I feel a little bit foolish now.
At the moment, compared to the last Newsnight Index it looks like we were 327 - 281 = 46 seats wrong on the Conservative seat total, and 266 - 235 = 31 seats off on Labour.
When we said we might be wrong, we talked about being 20 or 25 seats off on the top two parties. We did not think we would be off by more than forty seats. And we categorically ruled out a majority.
If there's a crumb of comfort, it's that it could have been worse. Our model assumed that the Conservatives would "swing back", and ultimately do one to two percent better on the day of the election than they had done in the polls. We were worried about that assumption - we seemed continually to be waiting for a Conservative recovery that never arrived.
As it turns out, we should have expected far more "shy Tories". And this does seem to me to be a story about shy Tories. We saw no recovery for the LibDems, which we thought might happen. If anything, national polls were slightly generous to the Lib Dems. Constituency polls - which implied a better position for the Liberal Democrats when voters were asked about the situation "in their constituency" - were off. That seems to be one of the main factors which drove our forecast astray.
On other parties, we fared better. We look to have got close with UKIP and the Greens. We did far better than some Scottish journalists in predicting that the SNP would win more than fifty seats.
We'll be looking at our forecast model and trying to work out what we could have done better. We imagine the polling industry will be doing the same.
- Copyright: AP
A few interesting points on the results so far:
Lib Dem peers. They're now massively over represented. Former MPs who think they'll get a peerage may be very disappointed.
Even worse news for Labour. A Tory majority will allow Conservatives to push through boundary changes - possibly giving them an extra 25 seats in 2020.
The DUP. Even if the Tories do have a small majority Cameron will want to strike some kind of deal with the DUP as a buffer against awkward Tories.
Ministers. Without Liberal Democrats there will be more ministerial positions to dole out. Cameron will have more room to placate difficult MPs, particularly on the right.
Lib Dems on telly. Their number of seats and percentage of votes means that you will be seeing and hearing a lot less from Lib Dems in the next few years. Broadcasters won't have the same obligations to give them air time.
Newsnight Political Editor
I turned up at CCHQ at just before 5 this morning to see a very happy Lynton Crosby heading out with friends. Tory sources insist he wasn't leaving for the night but was probably heading to a nearby hotel bar. I'm getting breakfast in one now (or is it lunch, up since 2:30am) and next to a big table of Tories celebrating.
Crosby always talked about "crossover" in the polls - the moment when the Tories went ahead decisively and stayed ahead. Boy, did it come late.
In the words of one senior Labour source: "People came home from work at 6pm on Thursday and, in seats across the country, fed their kids some tea, went to vote, and called time on Ed and Nicola".
A Tory whip who predicted to me yesterday afternoon they would end up at over 300, said to me: "a quiet English nationalism is rearing its head".
David Cameron and George Osborne have enormous authority now. Even critics of the leadership have told me that. Remember, they will now have more jobs to give Tory MPs.
Not being able to give them jobs in the last government was a massive source of resentment.
It also looks like they will have the authority to push through things they always wanted to do, so long as the right of their party is happy.
Snoopers charter? Clearly the Europe referendum.
They can probably go a bit further on welfare but - if they need to rely on the DUP - that will make going too deep on welfare tricky. DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds has said he wouldn't allow welfare cuts to go too deep.
Meanwhile, Labour folk who tried in the last year to get rid of Ed Miliband - exactly because they predicted this kind of rejection - are treading carefully this morning.
They won't move until it can be decidedly shown that an Ed Miliband Labour Party wouldn't be able to beat a Cameron queen's speech.
But once that has been established, the next view is that it must skip a generation. Good news for Liz Kendall, Dan Jarvis, Chuka Umunna. Less good for Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham. But it’s very early days.