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Analysis: 'Brexit effect' nowhere to be seen as Labour triumph in Islington

PUBLISHED: 08:32 09 June 2017

'Crumble': Jeremy Corbyn, left, and Emily Thornberry, second right, were told their Brexit stance would hit their vote share by Cllr Caroline Russell, second left, and Terry Stacy, right. It didn't. Pictures: PA/Polly Hancock/Terry Stacy

'Crumble': Jeremy Corbyn, left, and Emily Thornberry, second right, were told their Brexit stance would hit their vote share by Cllr Caroline Russell, second left, and Terry Stacy, right. It didn't. Pictures: PA/Polly Hancock/Terry Stacy

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It felt like something big was happening at the Sobell Leisure Centre last night, where there was a shock – but not the one some might have predicted.

The count at the Sobell Leisure Centre in Finsbury Park. Picture: Sam GelderThe count at the Sobell Leisure Centre in Finsbury Park. Picture: Sam Gelder

At the start of the campaign, the Lib Dems and the Greens had confidently predicted Labour’s Brexit stance would hit them hard.

Former council leader Terry Stacy boldly told the Gazette hours after Theresa May’s surprise election announcement that Emily Thornberry’s majority would “crumble” after her supposed betrayal of her constituents in backing Article 50.

Similarly, Cllr Caroline Russell said voters were “fed up” of Jeremy Corbyn’s apologist stance on Brexit, which Islington overwhelmingly rejected in June last year.

Even the Gazette’s own somewhat unscientific poll predicted a big swing away from Labour.

Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry were beaming with joy ahead of their own results. Picture: Sam GelderJeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry were beaming with joy ahead of their own results. Picture: Sam Gelder

Contrary to their pronouncements, the Lib Dems saw only minor gains while the Greens’ vote largely collapsed – but Labour secured enormous (and, in Corbyn’s case, record breaking) majorities to hang on to their seats.

The Conservatives, who nationally seemed to be the big losers, held on to second place: Jason Charalambous scooped 9,925 seats in Islington South and Finsbury, almost exactly what they polled in 2015.

There was a buzz about the leisure centre from the moment the exit polls shocked everyone by predicting a hung parliament.

But it was an agonising few hours for journalists, camera crews and party members who were waiting for the headline acts to arrive. It wasn’t helped by Labour members, in particular, remaining tight-lipped about their thoughts both locally and nationally.

Then there was a false start. As the sports hall erupted into cheers, crowds armed with pens and cameras rushed forward, only to be met by The Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

But finally, as the clock edged towards 2.30am – the predicted result time for both Islington North and Islington South and Finsbury – the armed police moved to the entrance and the wait was over.

First, a beaming Emily Thornberry strolled into the sports hall and then, not long after, Jeremy Corbyn followed, also wearing a huge smile.

Both were met with huge applause, and a chorus of journalists stood in formation to welcome Mr Corbyn, who sparked a mini riot as photographers fought for the best shot.

On the floor, Cllr Russell – who had a bad night locally – instead toasted the disastrous night for the Tories. The almost ecstatic Islington North candidate said the “progressive alliance” tactic, which saw Greens standing aside to make way for Labour in some territories, had worked a treat.

All the same, the decisive majorities for Mr Corbyn and Ms Thornberry did little to dispel the national uncertainty around whether Ms May, or even her party, would be in power come morning.

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