Phew! We started off at 10 p.m. last night seriously worried that we might not be able to match Michael Foot's 209 seats. In the event, we appear to have got 258 seats - just 53 seats less than the Tories with one seat yet to declare as of the time of writing this.
Why is Labour so cheerful about this? Well we've done what we set out to do, which is to deprive the Conservatives of a majority.
Without a majority they can't force any legislation through parliament without having the support of others. What this means in practice is that the right-wing parts of their manifesto can be binned right now - and this holds regardless of whether they govern as a minority government or in coalition with the LibDems. They will not be able to sell bits of the BBC to Murdoch, they will not be able to get their IHT cuts through, they will even struggle to take revenge on a north-east that refuses to vote for them.
The right wing part of the Tory agenda is well and truly stuffed. Only the touchy-feely bits will survive - the bits that feel like New Labour! Given how right-wing and unreconstructed the new Tory parliamentary party is, this should be fun to watch.
From a Labour point of view, these events seem astonishing. At the end of the Tory party conference last Oct, ICM had the Cons on 45%, with Lab 26% and LibDems 18% - a 19 point lead for the Conservatives. We had plenty of Tories anticipating a 100+ majority, gloating about landslides and how they'd use power to kebab Labour, and about how they'd wiped Labour out "for a generation".
Then during the contest, we had the LibDems claiming that they would "replace Labour" and push us into third place. That didn't happen either.
The two other parties spent way too much time gloating and yakking about what they'd do with their perceived success and not enough time actually trying to secure it.
Labour is still standing despite no newspaper backing us apart from the Mirror (which did great!), and despite Elvis, bigot-gate, and a hysterical press demonising Brown. I was going to go into an analysis of how we actually achieved this, and then I thought, no, why gives ideas to the Tories and LibDems? Let them carry on just the way they are. Okay, just one hint: we didn't have any MP doing impersonations of Blair, LOL.
P.S. In my neck of the woods, Southampton, we held onto both Southampton Itchen and Southampton Test. Along with Ben Bradshaw's win down Exeter way, it was important as the continued presence in the south means Labour are still the only party with seats in all parts of Great Britain.