The Top 10: Moments When Campaigns Were Supposedly Lost But Weren’t (Because They Were Already Lost)

John Rentoul
Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings: PA

Damian Counsell came up with this one, citing Neil Kinnock, Kevin Keegan and Howard Dean.

1. Battle of Waterloo, 1815. Even had Napoleon won, it would have made no difference to the eventual outcome, said Allan Holloway.

2. Pickett’s Charge, Battle of Gettysburg, 1863. The Confederates had already lost, according to Harry Riedl.

3. Zinoviev Letter, 1924. “The Conservative majority had been baked in well before that point,” said Lewis Baston. Graham Kirby said its effect was to reduce the Liberal rather than the Labour vote.

4. Hitler invading Russia, 1941. The Germans were always going to lose the Second World War after they failed to knock out the UK by mid-1941: controversial but, I think, right from Everard Vanderplast. Safer suggestion of Stalingrad from Adrian McMenamin and Peter Warner.

5. Sheffield rally in the 1992 election. Neil Kinnock’s rockstar “We’re all right!” call-and-response with an enthusiastic audience later symbolised the party celebrating victory before the voters did their democratic duty, but cannot by itself have put off a significant number of them.

6. Granita dinner, 1994. Gordon Brown had decided the night before to pull out of the Labour leadership election in Tony Blair’s favour, but in any case he never had any prospect of winning. Thanks to Spinning Hugo.

7. “I will love it if we beat them! Love it!” Kevin Keegan in 1996, about Manchester United. Keegan’s Newcastle had already lost a match against Alex Ferguson’s side, and were about to narrowly lose the Premiership to them.

8. Howard Dean’s scream, 2004. His defiant speech after coming a surprisingly poor third in the Iowa caucuses became famous, but he had little chance against John Kerry in the contest to become the Democratic nominee.

9. Ed Stone, 2015. Nominated by Rob Marchant, Danno the manno, Alex Gavin, Matt Downey and Steven Richards. I doubted that anyone saw it as the moment the election was lost, but Jenny Geras said: “The Ed Stone was the moment I put money on a Tory majority, and I won a good amount.”

10. Andrea Leadsom’s “being a mum” comment when up against Theresa May for the Conservative leadership in 2016, “a contest she was never going to win”, said Lee Anders. Also controversial, but I also agree.

There is always one, and this week it is Aletheia, who nominated the 2020 Labour leadership campaign.

Next week: Mistaken identities, such as Milton Keynes, confused with John Maynard Keynes by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, member of US congress.

Coming soon: Unlikely names for suburbs, such as California and New Zealand in Derby.

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