Former Home Secretary and Sheffield MP David Blunkett has said he feared the Conservatives were headed for an overall majority in a ‘very, very bad’ night for Labour at the General Election.
The 67-year-old, who has just stood down as Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP, warned his party must ‘learn the lessons’ of what looked like being a serious bruising, but not ‘revert to the far left’ as it came to terms with the verdict of the electorate.
He said: “I believe the opinion polls were wrong and the exit polls were right and that it is a very, very bad night for us.”
Polls showed the parties neck-and-neck throughout the campaign, while the exit poll forecast 316 seats for the Tories – 10 short of the number needed for an absolute majority – with Labour predicted to secure just 239, 17 fewer than their tally at the start of the campaign.
But Mr Blunkett, who stepped down from the Commons at the election, said results such as the key Labour target of Nuneaton – where the Conservatives not only held onto the seat but increased its majority – suggested the final result could be worse still.
He said: “My greatest fear now is that, with the Nuneaton result and others, that actually nudge over the 323-seat margin.
I believe the opinion polls were wrong and the exit polls were right and that it is a very, very bad night for us.Former Home Secretary David Blunkett
“If they don’t, and I pray they don’t, then all other parties can stop them implementing some of the terrible policies they have laid out on welfare and tax cuts for the rich.
“My heart goes out to those candidates, particularly in Scotland, who have been swept away in the tsunami north of the border and those who have struggled so hard here in England.
“It’s a terrible shame for the country and for the Labour Party and I just want to make it clear that instead of this weekend us going into a kind of bunker, we have got to examine these results carefully and we have got to learn the lessons, reaching out with what Ed Miliband himself called 18 months ago ‘one nation’ politics.
“We must not revert to the far left. We must not allow ourselves to turn inwards. We must try to heal the hurt people will be feeling and, above all, we should be gathering wherever we can, support in the House of Commons.”
The fact the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats together no longer commanded a large majority – seized on by senior Labour figures as the first results emerged – was no more than “a very small comfort”, he said.