No. I had not seen that result coming. My most optimistic guess was 295 for the Conservatives, and just enough Lib Dems to scrape another coalition. In twenty-odd years of being involved with election campaigns, the one almost unbreakable rule was, that the Lib Dems always held on against the odds. Their ground campaign was always superior to ours and their ability to produce and deliver last minute focussed literature was extraordinary.
I spent most of the 2015 campaign in Kingston & Surbiton, helping James Berry take on Ed Davey. James worked like a Trojan, doing two or more campaigning stints every single day on the streets, and had to deal with national figures wanting to descend on him at a moment’s notice. The operation behind him. restricted as it was to a fairly small office, was superbly well-organised. James had a newly elected Conservative council behind him, but nonetheless the Liberals once again drowned us in a sea of leaflets and free “newspapers”. I thought he had a chance, but I expected the Lib Dem machine to frustrate us again. Nor could I really see Paul Scully winning in Sutton where the Lib Dems hold almost all the council seats. And as for Vince Cable – if anyone had told me that they thought Cable was in trouble I would have told them to go and sit down in a darkened room.
So James’ victory was especially sweet, the cherry on top of the overall majority. Tonight I’m off to celebrate at his thank-you party. It will be great fun and a chance to re-live a tough campaign. And then it’s 5 years of hard work, proving to the country that we deserved our majority, until it all starts again.