To future generations, the names of toppled Labour strongholds will tell the story of Boris Johnson‘s tidal wave.
It began in Blyth Valley, a former mining area in the North-East that had never before elected a Conservative.
It swept through Darlington, Sedgefield and Great Grimsby, Stoke Central and West Bromwich, culminating in that extraordinary moment when Dennis Skinner’s seat of Bolsover — Bolsover! — was painted blue.
Even in Tory strategists’ wildest dreams, they never expected this. The Conservatives’ biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher’s last victory in 1987, and their biggest share of the vote since 1979.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech outside 10 Downing Street in central London after the Conservative Party win the general election
And for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, a humiliation of truly earth-shattering proportions, with the party’s worst showing since 1935.
Until now, two elections have defined Britain’s history since World War II. One was Clement Attlee’s Labour landslide in 1945, paving the way for the Welfare State and the NHS.
The other was Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 victory, which turned the page on years of economic decline and inaugurated a free-market era upheld by Tony Blair.
Does Boris Johnson’s victory belong in that category?
To some extent it depends on what happens in the next five years, but right now it certainly feels like it.
Watching people queue to vote in the rain, it was hard to banish the sense this was a genuine turning point, a decisive showdown for the future of the nation.
If Mr Johnson’s gamble had failed, and if Jeremy Corbyn had walked into Downing Street yesterday, our country’s future would now be utterly different.
A Labour victory would have been a victory for state control, nationalisation and the end of free enterprise.
It would have meant the probable death of Nato, as well as months and years of Brexit paralysis.
And for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn (pictured leaving his home in north London after the election results), a humiliation of truly earth-shattering proportions, with the party’s worst showing since 1935
A Labour victory would have been a victory for state control, nationalisation and the end of free enterprise
And perhaps above all, it would have ushered in an era of bankruptcy, bigotry, envy and anti-Semitism — all alien to every atom of our national soul.
But you should never underestimate the good sense of the British people. They had the chance to put Mr Corbyn into No 10, but they preferred to give Mr Johnson the first really clear, unassailable mandate since 2005.
So to borrow a couple of familiar slogans, not only can we expect to get Brexit done, but at last we have a genuinely strong and stable government.
On that subject, I wonder what Theresa May is thinking. As several commentators pointed out, it was her supposedly disastrous campaign in 2017 that paved the way for this victory, even if the result was a bit different.
For it was Mrs May who first made inroads into Labour’s working-class electorate, even if she did not turn her Northern votes into parliamentary seats. So it turns out that her strategists, much mocked at the time, were on to something after all.
Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher waves to crowds of supporters after she wins the general election in 1987 in London
There is no doubt, though, that this is a colossal personal victory for Boris Johnson. Long dismissed as a clown and a joker, he will go down in history not merely as the Conservative mayor who twice won Labour London, but as the Tory Prime Minister who turned Bolsover blue.
As I wrote at the outset of the campaign, Mr Johnson has a remarkably classless appeal, reminiscent of past Tory showmen such as Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli. He cheers people up, makes them laugh, rouses their spirits and reflects their patriotism.
And although high-minded snobs sneer at him as a vulgar demagogue — just as their predecessors sneered at Disraeli and Churchill — he has been proved triumphantly right. All his life he has gambled, and time after time he has won.
And if his opponents insist on underrating him — as they underrated Margaret Thatcher, another modern Tory populist — there is every chance he will keep on winning.
But winning elections is not the same thing as governing wisely. This is his task now, and it could hardly be more urgent.
And if his opponents insist on underrating him — as they underrated Margaret Thatcher (pictured after general election 1987), another modern Tory populist — there is every chance he will keep on winning
His first priority is to get Britain out of the EU. It seems certain we will leave on January 31 — and despite the fact that I voted Remain more than three years ago, I will be heartily relieved when we are out.
Yes, trade talks will drag on for months, perhaps years. But as Mr Johnson remarked yesterday, there is no doubt that Brexit is the ‘irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people’.
The ultra-Remainers have lost. There will be no People’s Vote, no second referendum, no revocation of Article 50. It is over.
Perhaps, in the future, some Remainers may have the humility to ask themselves why they failed so abjectly. All those marches, all those court cases, all that screaming, sobbing hysteria — and it was all for nothing.
As Mr Johnson’s consigliere Dominic Cummings remarked, the self-styled intellectuals ‘should have taken a deep breath and had a lot of self-reflection [on] why they misunderstood what was going on in the country. But, instead, a lot of people just doubled down on their own ideas and f****d it up even more.’
Will they learn? I doubt it. If they didn’t learn after 2016, why would they now?
Delivering Brexit is just one of many challenges ahead, and perhaps not even the most pressing.
When the euphoria of the election fades, the Prime Minister may find his in-tray overflowing.
Economic growth is too sluggish and productivity is too low. Our economy is still too dependent on the City of London, and we are dangerously vulnerable to a slowdown in the U.S. or China.
To future generations, the names of toppled Labour strongholds will tell the story of Boris Johnson’s (pictured with girlfriend Carrie Symonds) tidal wave
The Conservatives’ biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher’s last victory in 1987, and their biggest share of the vote since 1979
Small businesses, in particular, have been fearfully squeezed in recent years, partly by high business rates and corporation tax, but also by the decline of the High Street and the rise of online shopping. Mr Johnson should make it a priority to give them a break.
As for our public services, it is all very well to talk of thousands more nurses. But the reality — obscured by the mendacious drivel coming from Labour during the campaign — is that the NHS is creaking badly under the pressure of an ageing population.
Mr Johnson’s instinct may well be to keep throwing more money at it, with NHS spending projected to rise by £20bn a year until 2024.
But at some point, a brave — or foolhardy — politician will have to consider serious reform, perhaps even emulating the insurance systems that work so well in countries such as France. Overshadowing all this is the issue of austerity. Mr Johnson was right to recognise that the public have tired of cuts.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn waits next to Brexit Party candidate Yosef David for the General Election results of the Islington North constituency
There is only so far you can push people before their patience cracks, and many of us are horrified to see so many homeless on the streets.
Yet the fact remains that the country is still running a budget deficit of more than £41 billion a year. We cannot simply turn on the taps by taxing and borrowing. If we genuinely want better public services, we need to make the money to pay for them, which is why it is so important to encourage enterprise through low taxes and high productivity.
But perhaps the greatest challenges for Mr Johnson are two huge existential questions posed by Thursday’s extraordinary results. First, he must recognise the reality of his new coalition.
Thanks in part to Brexit, the landscape of British politics has fundamentally shifted.
The Conservative Party now represents the working-class North and Midlands as well as the middle-class South: a party of Bolsover, Bridgend, West Bromwich and Wrexham.
As the PM recognised in his victory speech, many working-class voters’ hands ‘will have quivered over the ballot paper’ before they put their crosses in the Conservative box.
They cannot be taken for granted. The Government must listen to their concerns, reflect their values and rebuild their communities, which have been neglected for so long.
His first priority is to get Britain out of the EU. It seems certain we will leave on January 31 — and despite the fact that I voted Remain more than three years ago, I will be heartily relieved when we are out
Mr Johnson was right, then, to emphasise his One-Nation credentials. He must reassure his new supporters that they belong inside the Conservative tent, and the only way to do that is to govern in their interests.
That might sound tricky, given that the Tories are often caricatured as a rich Southern party. But are working-class and middle-class interests really so different?
After all, history shows that from Disraeli to Thatcher, the Tory Party is most effective when it appeals to working-class families who want a patriotic, competent government, delivering safe streets, decent services and a chance to get on.
Mr Johnson is, I think, well placed to play that part again.
We sometimes forget that as London’s mayor he cut a remarkably consensual, moderate, artfully classless figure, appealing to thousands of traditional Labour voters.
He may have lost some of that sheen in recent years, but he is clearly more comfortable as a British Ronald Reagan than as a British Donald Trump — amiable and optimistic rather than angry and hectoring. That is the Boris we need to see.
The other issue, and perhaps the most dangerous, is Scotland.
There is no getting away from the fact that having won 48 seats out of a possible 59, the SNP are the masters of all they survey.
And with Nicola Sturgeon pushing for a second independence referendum, Mr Johnson needs to play a very careful game.
Mr Johnson is, I think, well placed to play that part again. We sometimes forget that as London’s mayor he cut a remarkably consensual, moderate, artfully classless figure, appealing to thousands of traditional Labour voters
He needs to stand up for the Union but can’t afford to alienate Scottish voters through arrogant high-handedness or indifference to their concerns.
So, while the last thing Scotland needs is another referendum, the Government has to strike a delicate balance.
The only lasting answer is to show the Scottish people how well the Union works, by giving them a prosperous economy and a strong government. Give the Scots a reason to stay, and they will stay. Push them away, and they will leave — which would be a disaster.
All of this may sound daunting. But we should allow ourselves a little optimism.
At last the years of squabbling and uncertainty are over. Britain has a sense of stability and direction, reflected in the surging pound and buoyant stock market. We have a Prime Minister who is not afraid to take decisions, and a Government that can and will govern.
Above all, the election has been a reminder of the most essential, enduring element in our political constitution: the fundamental decency and common sense of the British people.
Like many people, I turned on the television just before 10pm on Thursday with a terrible sense of dread.
Was Britain really going to elect a man who sympathised with Hamas, Hezbollah, the Soviet Union and the IRA?
Were voters really going to fall for the bribes and lies of the most cynical, fanatical and dishonest Labour leadership in history?
And would the British people really reward a party in thrall to bigotry, Marxism and vicious anti-Semitism?
I need not have worried. The British people aren’t fools.
This was Labour’s most pitiful defeat since the 1930s, worse than Michael Foot’s showing in 1983.
And so Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, their mad manifesto and their crazed cultists have ended up where they always belonged, in the dustbin of history.
In the weeks ahead, commentators will spill torrents of ink poring over the results. But if you want a very simple explanation of the election, it is this.
Deep down, we are a patriotic, small-c conservative nation.
We are cautious, grumpy and suspicious of change, but we are also honest, pragmatic and tolerant of difference. We hate being patronised, nannied and told what to do.
We despise ideology, we don’t like being bribed and we hate being taken for fools.
We despise bigots and bullies, even when they dress up as high-minded martyrs.
And though we like to moan, nobody should doubt that we love our country.
Jeremy Corbyn never understood that. But Boris Johnson did. And that, above all, is why he won.
Well done, everybody.
An olive branch to remainers: Hours after stunning victory, PM vows to unite UK and says we deserve break from talking about Brexit
By Jason Groves, Political Editor
Boris Johnson pledged to unite the country and heal its Brexit divisions last night after securing a stunning election victory over Labour.
Speaking on the steps of No 10 after visiting the Queen, the Prime Minister said it was time to bring ‘closure’ to the three-and-a-half years of toxic argument over Britain’s departure from the European Union.
His pledge to ‘Get Brexit Done’ helped him rout Labour in its traditional heartlands in the North and Midlands. The emphatic 80-seat majority was the biggest Tory win since 1987.
Addressing the nation after delivering a political earthquake, Mr Johnson offered an olive branch to Remainers and said the country deserved ‘a break from wrangling, a break from politics, and a permanent break from talking about Brexit’.
Wishing voters a ‘happy Christmas’, he said they could now go about their festive preparations ‘happy and secure’ in the knowledge that the Brexit crisis was being resolved, and that other priorities, such as the NHS, would move centre stage in 2020.
Next year, he said, would be ‘a year of prosperity and growth and hope’, promising a ‘parliament that works for the people’.
The PM’s One Nation pitch to the country came as:
Sterling soared to a three-and-a-half year high as markets welcomed the decisive election result and the removal of the threat of a Labour government;
Jeremy Corbyn brushed aside calls to resign immediately and sparked anger among Labour moderates by claiming the election showed that his policies had ‘huge public support’;
A poll showed that 43 per cent of people identified their dislike of the Labour leader as their reason for not voting for his party;
Mr Johnson returned to No 10 with girlfriend Carrie Symonds to prepare for a whirlwind tour of the North – before a frantic 100-day schedule to begin his new administration;
It emerged that Sajid Javid will survive next week’s mini-reshuffle but could still be in jeopardy in a wider Cabinet shake-up in the new year;
Downing Street said Mr Johnson would not allow a second vote on Scottish independence despite the SNP picking up 48 of the 59 seats north of the border;
Jo Swinson was forced to resign as Liberal Democrat leader after losing her seat but claimed she ‘did not regret’ her disastrous decision to campaign on a pledge to cancel Brexit;
Donald Trump led international congratulations, saying Mr Johnson had secured a ‘tremendous victory’ that would result in ‘a lot of trade’;
Brussels warned the PM that he will have to revert to a softer post-Brexit relationship to get the trade deal he wants by the end of next year;
The People’s Vote campaign abandoned its bid for a second referendum, saying it would ‘rebrand and reorganise to campaign for a fair deal for Britain’;
The election returned a record 217 women MPs – more than a third of the total. More than half of Labour and Lib Dem MPs are now women.
Mr Johnson yesterday spoke directly to traditional Labour voters who had helped carry him to victory, pledging that his ‘People’s Government’ would ‘not let them down’.
He added: ‘To all those whose pencils may have wavered over the ballot and who heard the voices of their parents and their grandparents whispering anxiously in their ears, I say thank you for the trust you have placed in us and in me. We will work round the clock to repay your trust and to deliver on your priorities.’
Mr Johnson also appealed to Remainers, saying he would ‘never ignore’ them and pledging to ensure their ‘good and positive’ feelings towards other European nations are reflected in the post-Brexit relationship he negotiates with the EU. He added: ‘I frankly urge everyone on either side – after three-and-a-half years of increasingly arid argument – I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin.’
Mr Johnson will today travel North to visit the remains of Labour’s ‘Red Wall’ seats, which turned blue as voters flocked to his pledge to deliver on the 2016 referendum result. Yesterday he acknowledged that many voters in seats such as Bolsover, Sedgefield and Leigh may have