Johnson’s triumph: ‘He will lead the world into a new age’
Young Tories celebrate stunning election win as Labour and Lib Dem supporters reflect on ‘disaster’
The roars bounced around the walls of the sports bar near London’s Trafalgar Square at 10pm.
Apprehension about a hung parliament gave way to cheers as the exit polls told the young Tories at the election night watch party that Boris Johnson would return to Downing Street with a large majority.
The chants soon started: “Boris! Boris!”, as trays of shots appeared.
“Sheer relief,” said an elated Jack Rydeheard from Bury. “We can finally get that Brexit deal through now and make parliament able to break that deadlock ... We can get this deal through by Christmas.”
The biggest victory for the Conservatives since Margaret Thatcher’s win in 1987 – and worst result for labour since 1935 – left Johnson’s supporters at this party rushing for selfies with a cardboard cut-out Boris.
“I got a selfie with him the other night – it was brilliant,” said Rydeheard of the real Johnson.
The 20-year-old Conservative felt that Johnson could – after a divisive and at times vicious election campaign – unite the country with a manifesto to appeal to all parts of the country; he was the man for the future.
“He has just got something about him as a person now. It doesn’t matter what he has done in the past ... It is who he is now,” he said.
Richard Newman (24), from Cheltenham, felt the election result had drawn a line under Brexit.
“The second referendum question is out the window and the whole ‘staying-in-Europe’ is out the window as well. The country as a whole has definitely decided as a whole to leave – again,” said Newman, surrounded by plates of chips, pizzas and nachos at the party organised by a group called Conservative Progress.
Maria Murphy (23), from Scarborough, said “Boris’s majority” would “get Brexit done”, as he had promised.
“It just proves what we have thought all along. People just want to get Brexit done at this stage,” she said. Asked how she would celebrate, she said: “Every seat, I will take a shot – I’m joking. Not every seat.”
‘A new age’
Johnnie Burke-Gaffney (60) from Putney declared himself “over the moon” at the Tory victory.
“We will see Boris Johnson as he really is. He is going to be one of the greatest international statesmen in the world and I really think he will lead the world into a new age,” said the Londoner, drinking from a pint glass full of wine with an opened wine bottle in his coat pocket.
“You can go somewhat to the left; you cannot go all the way to the left,” he said.
Clemmow said Johnson could unite the country. Referring to his “half-Irish” roots, he predicted that the size of Johnson’s majority meant he could “face down” the hardline Brexiteers in the European Research Group and agree “a customs union by the backdoor, which will make the Irish Border work”.
“At that point, once Brexit has started, it will disappear from the headlines. It will be in the background. Negotiations will carry on for a long long time but I think the divisiveness may pass,” he said.
He was impressed by Johnson breaking the “red wall” of Labour seats in Leave-voting areas of northern England and expected the Tories to use “the austerity dividend” to invest in these areas now.
However, he anticipated Scotland being “a headache” with the Scottish National Party’s seat gains.
Alan O’Kelly, originally from Prosperous in Co Kildare and a former Fine Gael town councillor, sought to explain Johnson’s victory: on the doorsteps, both remainers and leavers were fed up of Brexit and wanted it done.
“Everything has been about this, it is time to move on. It is time to talk about things that aren’t about Brexit because there is so much more going on. I have kids. I worry about schools and hospitals,” he said.
Mahyar Tousi (31) from West Ham in London accepted it had been a divisive election campaign run on “social media banter, gotcha journalism, and basically finding each other’s flaws, which is not really good for the public”.
He expected Johnson to negotiate a “liberal Brexit” and easily agree a free trade deal with the EU – contrary to Liberal Demorat claims – given that the UK already had arrangements with the EU.
“We don’t have to start from scratch as with Canada or South Korea, everything is already in place. So all you have to do is just copy and paste in,” he said.
In celebratory mode, he planned to move to stronger alcohol as the party wore on. “When I finish this pint, I am moving to shots and vodka,” he said.
Over at the Liberal Democrat volunteers’ party, a short walk away, there was a very different atmosphere. The party’s poor showing after a campaign of vowing to stop Brexit had left in post-mortem mode.
“I’m not going to lie, I think it’s a disaster,” said Guy Benson (23), from the south coast of England. He was against the party’s plan to revoke Brexit, he said, and accepted it felt like “a divisive policy”. “If we had argued for people voting in a second referendum, would we have done better? I don’t know,” he pondered.
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson losing her seat in Scotland was “a tremendous loss for the country”, he said. He questioned whether in hindsight she was right to run a “presidential-style campaign”, but criticised the media for “squeezing” her out of television debates.
Conor Mohan, a Liberal Democrat is originally from Dundalk, said the result showed that Corbyn “really does not resonate with the working class” given the number of working class areas that “swung to the Tories”.
“It looks like Brexit will happen one way or another,” he said, near tables of sushi, hummus and a tower of profiteroles.
Mark O’Brien O’Reilly, from Kells, Co Meath and both a Fianna Fáil and Lib Dem supporter, felt the party would undergo a long period of reflection “quite like Fianna Fáil did after the 2011 election”.
In the Labour stronghold of Hackney, the party’s activists and die-hard Corbynistas stood defiantly by their leader and his solidly left-wing manifesto as they drank outside The Three Compasses pub in Dalston.
Steve Parry from Finsbury Park said he was “quite shocked”, “upset” and “gutted”. Corbyn had transformed Labour, he said, describing the party leader as “an inspiring and transformative figure”.
“I want a country where we all stand together. It doesn’t have to be like this,” he said.
Jan Culley, a teacher, predicted “some civil unrest” as Labour supporters felt the UK’s democratic processes had failed them in the election and the media had run an “unbelievable campaign” against Corbyn.
Joe Giddings felt Labour could have done better by selling a softer Brexit more closely aligned to the EU and sold with a clear slogan such as “get Brexit right!”
“That is probably not going to happen now,” he said.
Maddie O’Shea (40), whose mother is from Co Kerry, said she was “quite upset” and “really surprised” at the result. She struggled to understand how “tiny little towns and places in the middle of nowhere” had voted for the Conservatives when the NHS was at risk in a trade deal with the US under Johnson’s Brexit.
O’Shea, an Irish passport holder, is considering moving with her wife to Co Kerry and opening a pub in Killarney to flee the new Tory government.
She pointed to the irony of how her parents moved to the UK for a better life in the 1970s and now she was contemplating going the other way to avoid the Conservatives.
“Ireland is my home, London is my home and it is a complete struggle,” she said. “I think I can’t live here.”