Alistair Campbell, in the biggest act of denial of any political hack that I have ever witnessed, was still questioning the legitimacy of any Conservative government based on the earlier polls. He promised to eat his kilt if the exit poll was in any way accurate. Paddy Ashdown offered to eat his hat on the same basis. Pass the salt and pepper please, the diners at table 8 are waiting to start their meal.
But the exit poll had got it right (in fact it was an underestimate of the number of seats that the Tories would win) and it had got it right for a very simple reason. The earlier polls had shown a 20% level of 'don't knows'. The exit polls, however, were showing what people had actually voted. Therefore the 'don't knows' no longer featured. Do these people not understand what an exit poll actually is?
By being in denial after the polls had closed they simply made themselves look stupid. Their statements couldn't change a single vote at that stage, so why not just fess up and admit that Labour had failed to convince the electorate of the merit of their arguments?
Labour politician after Labour politician was trotted on to our TV screens trying to convince us that it was too early to call the result and that because the exit poll had shown an outcome that was at odds with earlier polls then it must be wrong, Not one of them mentioned the 'don't knows' and their effect on the outcome. How absurd they made themselves look. Yes, I'm talking about you, Tristram Hunt.
The fact that the 'don't know' vote went in one direction more than the other is what changed this election outcome. Were they really 'don't knows' or just closet Tories? Who knows, but by ignoring that vote and concentrating on the headline polling figures Labour undoubtedly made a big mistake. They were disregarding an important sector of the voting public and paid the price for it.
I'm not going to go on some triumphalist rant about the Tories. I voted for them on a 'best-of-a-bad-lot' basis more than any sort of party allegiance. Also significant in my decision making, as you will know if you read last week's blog, was the fact that Labour still hadn't acknowledged their overspending prior to 2007. Labour, you clearly weren't fooling as many people as you thought!
Part of the reason that the result is as it is was the fact that rather than the Conservatives winning the election, Labour lost it. In fact Labour took a net three seats from the Tories in England (at time of writing). However, that wasn't the deciding factor. That was the fact that the Tories took so many seats from the Lib Dems; seats that Labour were counting on winning in many cases.
Labour will no doubt claim that the election was won and lost in Scotland, but that won't be true. Even if they had hung on to the 40 seats they lost to the SNP they still couldn't have formed a government because of those Tory gains. So when the excuses start flowing be sure to watch out for that one in particular.
So what of Scotland? Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond counted on being in a position to do some sort of deal with Labour, making them the power broker in Westminster.That now won't happen. The SNP are 'also rans' and even though they have won 57 seats they haven't increased their influence at Westminster in any meaningful way. Indeed Scotland may have less of a voice as for the first time in a long time neither the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Shadow Secretary of State will be a Scottish MP or even a Scot. How can that be an improvement for Scotland?
No doubt the English vote was influenced by what was happening north of the border, so would the SNP have done anything different if they had known how the result would turn out? Of course not. No party would campaign to lose seats if they knew they could win them. However, if ever Labour needed a lesson about taking voters for granted I think the Scots have given it to them. I said as much in a blog in December 2014 . Labour, as the party in opposition, weren't able to do anything about that between December and now, but have seen their vote north of the border crumble as the SNP have played on that.
So what does that mean for the Tories? Well, f they truly value the Union they have to do what Labour didn't and pay more attention to what happens in Scotland. It won't win them extra seats there, that horse has already bolted, but it might, just might, keep calls for a second independence referendum at bay. After all, the SNP, with all but three of the Scottish seats in Parliament, are now going to try to claim that the Scots are now more pro independence than they were in September last year and that ain't gonna go away. Perhaps its going to be a good time to be Scottish.
The result of the night for me? UKIP losing Rochester & Strood. It shows once and for all that you can't take a by-election result and parlay it into a general election result. As I write I don't know if Nigel Farage has won in Thanet South (declaration now not expected until around 11 a.m.) or not, but if he has then he is a lucky man and if he hasn't then it proves that the British public is really not happy with his type of xenophobia. The best Nigel can hope for is to end up with the same number of seats as he started with, the worst is the ending of his political career, assuming he keeps his promise to resign as UKIP leader. He is, after all, a politician and we know what they're like when it comes to keeping promises.
This blog will only be staying up for one day, as I promised a review of a book called Sweet Mungo and, unlike politicians, I keep my promises. However, as well as the book review my blog tomorrow will return to the theme of xenophobia, along with other forms of prejudice.