Jeremy Corbyn is facing the end of his Labour leadership after the 10pm exit poll forecasted a disastrous general election showing by the party.
The poll showed the Tories winning 368 seats to Labour’s 191. If this was to be the case, it would be the worst Labour election result since 1924 and Mr Corbyn would come under massive pressure to resign.
At the count in Islington, in Mr Corbyn’s constituency, grim-faced local allies of Mr Corbyn could be seen glued to their phones after the poll was released.
Richard Watts, the Labour leader of Islington Council, put on a brave face when approached by Yahoo News UK at the Sobell Leisure Centre in Holloway.
“At this stage they [exit polls] have been wrong before. We will see.”
Asked what the seat forecast would mean for Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the party, he refused to be drawn: “I don’t know. I am just hoping it’s not correct.”
Another senior councillor, Asima Shaikh, didn’t want to talk about the poll when approached by Yahoo News UK.
Amid the flutter of the election count, one activist muttered: “I wish I had sneaked some alcohol.”
Nick Wakeling, Mr Corbyn’s Liberal Democrat rival in his Islington North seat, was happy to launch a broadside against the Labour leader’s national performance: “A centrist Labour leader would have romped home.
“His hard-left policy has diverted voters to the Conservatives. I am genuinely heartbroken we are now out of the EU as a result.”
Mr Wakeling blasted his inability to “stamp out anti-Semitism” and said “centralisation of government undermining business doesn’t wash with people at all”. “It gives Boris Johnson the hand to do whatever he wants,” he said.
There has been no comment from Mr Corbyn’s camp.
His main shadow cabinet ally, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, said on the BBC’s election night programme: “Let’s see the results themselves. As I say, the appropriate decisions will be made and we’ll always make the decisions in the best interests of our party.”
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, a long-time rival of Mr Corbyn who used to lead Islington Council, blasted the poll as demonstrating the “failure of Corbyn and Corbynism”.
Meanwhile, “#CorbynOut” started trending on Twitter. “You knew your leader was unelectable yet you let him face the electorate for the second time,” one of the comments read.
“People didn’t want to vote for Johnson but they refused to vote for Corbyn,” read another.
However, though a poor result on the scale suggested by the exit poll could prompt Mr Corbyn to quit, the “Corbynism” philosophy blasted by Ms Hodge would likely remain following a four-year restructure of the party favouring his left-wing direction.
At a briefing in Chatham House, central London, last week, leading political scientist Matthew Goodwin said: “Corbynism is not an electoral project. Corbynism is an ideological project.
“Even if it suffers a second defeat, even if the Labour Party is staring at monumental losses across the one group it was founded to represent - the working class - it just stays in place.
“It gradually passes over to Long-Bailey, Pidcock or Thornberry and they say: “We just carry on, and carry on, and carry on.”
— Read more from Yahoo News UK —
According to Oddschecker, the favourite to take over from Mr Corbyn is the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer. Here are the odds:
Keir Starmer (2/1)
Rebecca Long-Bailey (7/2)
Angela Rayner (10/1)
Yvette Cooper (14/1)
Emily Thornberry (17/1)
Laura Pidcock (18/1)