The exit poll projecting a #hung parliament came as just as much as surprise to Labour’s campaign team as everyone else. One of them, who was with others bunched around a TV at the party headquarters in Victoria Street, London, said: “We were absolutely buzzing.”
There were words of caution that exit polls had proved unreliable in the past. One warned: “Let’s throttle this back.” But it was too late.
Andrew Murray, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s advisers, who helped write his manifesto speech, said: “There was a tremendous moment of elation when the exit poll was announced because it became apparent that the campaign had achieved the most stunning turnaround in public opinion in seven weeks.”
On Thursday morning, the team had prepared plans for about half a dozen scenarios. The best-case scenario, regarded as highly unlikely, was forming a government. The second best, viewed as almost as unlikely, was a hung parliament. The worst case, based on one of the worst of the polls, was the Conservatives on 380 seats, with Labour dropping to 190.
The scenario the team expected to be dealing with was one in the middle, which put Labour on about 35-36% of the vote.
Murray, seconded to the campaign from Britain’s biggest union Unite and demonised in the tabloid press as a Stalinist because he had been a member of the Communist party, spoke of the joy that engulfed the 8th-floor Southside office. “We had gone from mid 20s in the polls at the start of the campaign to denying the Tories a majority. It was a moment of shared achievement.”
At the start of the campaign seven weeks earlier, the mood of the advisers, friends, union general secretaries and others around Corbyn was doom-laden, speculating on whether he would have to resign if the election went badly and, if he did not, whether the Labour right would mount another challenge to him.