Voices: Send off the clowns! We could all see this Tory defeat coming

This result very is much about the last 14 years (PA)
This result very is much about the last 14 years (PA)

The exit poll? It’s historic, unprecedented, asteroidal. But, as with any object hurtling through space to destroy a planet, we could all see this coming.

So it is no surprise, either, that the rejection of the Conservatives and all they have come to stand for is so emphatic. What is novel, not to say worrying, is the likely cadre of Reform UK populists showing up in the Commons – as many as the Liberal Democrats managed to elect at the 2019 election.

Nigel Farage, it seems, may have been right when he said that “something is happening out there”. The other democratic parties will need to take this lot a bit more seriously in future. Farage often says he wants to be a nuisance – he now has some accomplices to help.

Obviously, these oddball populists will be ill-disciplined and fractious, if their record in the European parliament is anything to go by; but they represent a bridgehead. They will be a constant siren to the Tory right, and an impediment to rebuilding that party.

In truth it’s maybe a bit better for the Tories than they might have feared – but still the worst since, well, the dawn of democratic politics and the passage of the Reform Act of 1832.

This catastrophic result is very much about the last 14 years of Conservative-led and then Conservative governments – Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss, Sunak. The whole concatenation of incompetence, selfishness, sleaze, greed and criminality. We live in a country where we have been promised so much over the years, and repeatedly disappointed.

David Cameron and George Osborne were wrong to say that austerity and a smaller state were the answer – and no, we were not “all in this together”. The long, sorry decline of the NHS began in those years, which is also when they shut down the Sure Start centres and sacked 20,000 experienced community police officers.

Theresa May promised to end the “burning injustices”; the Windrush scandal was on her watch. Boris Johnson gave us a Brexit he never believed in or thought would happen. There was no “levelling up”: we got Partygate and lies to parliament instead. Truss promised us “growth, growth, growth” and we got “crash, bang, wallop”.

Rishi Sunak was merely the guy left to carry the can for austerity, Partygate and the mini-Budget. His fag-end premiership was never going to save them – and it may even have made matters worse. No wonder he wanted us to focus on the “choice” for the future and forget the legacy. On both counts, in point of fact, he and his party lost.

More than ever, as some of us suspected, the angry, impatient, exasperated public mood has been translated into a conscious effort to “get the Tories out by any means necessary”, and that meant tactical voting – at least by those on the centre-left, so long divided while the Tories enjoyed a monopoly on the right in general elections. Now they have Farage to contend with – a demagogue who seems as if he has been sent to torment the Tories for their misdemeanours. Their pleas for mercy have been in vain. They are being punished and attacked from all sides.

We should spare a moment to concede that polling can get things wrong; but if this exit poll is wildly misleading, then so is all of the public opinion polling that has been undertaken since the end of May, and probably before. In a potential landslide, as now, all the public want to know is if it can really be true.

It is. Whether a majority is 150 or 250, or more even, is a bit academic – except for the unfortunate MPs, their staff and their families, who’ve seen their employment status publicly announced by Clive Myrie.

For most viewers it’s simply a huge event, and one that so many have yearned for. The fact that the exit poll might be a bit out is in this case irrelevant. In a tight race, it would be cause for a public enquiry; but in this runaway epochal victory, there is cause for public celebrations and much private misery in Tory circles. It’s over.