YOU could almost hear the sharp intake of breath across the nation as the exit poll was revealed.

For it confirmed that this election had, indeed, been a Br-exit poll.

It was everything the Conservatives could have dreamed of - and the stuff of nightmares for everyone else as Friday the 13th brought the results into focus.

Labour, squeezed by both remain and leave voters, had hoped a promise to allow people to have the final say on a deal (witht he option to remain) would be enough to paper over the cracks while the conversation turned to the NHS, public services and ending austerity.

But the scars of three years' feeling cheated by politicians runs deep for those eager to leave the European Union.

And to those with no strong conviction over Europe - who are sick of the endless debates and confusing issues over trade deals, withdrawal agreements etc - 'getting Brexit done' sounds an immensely appealing prospect.

There was also the issue of Jeremy Corbyn himself, being cited by many as a chief reason for the losses.

But that's harsh.

Tony Blair at peak popularity, when faced with the rock of appeasing leavers and the hard place of satisfying remainers, would have struggled to come up with a plan any better than that of Corbyn.

Labour's 'middle road' was actually entirely reasonable.

But it would have taken time and you couldn't sum it up in three words.

And 'reasonable' was just not going to cut it amid a swathe of savage, mostly-untrue personal attacks from the Tory press.

It's also not going to work when your main opposition is touting the quick fix of 'getting Brexit done'. Again. And again.

Whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn - and he had many faults as a leader - his popularity terrified the Tory establishment.

His leadership has doubled Labour membership and he has done more than anyone in recent memory to engage young people with politics.

As a result, his treatment has been shameful, whatever party you vote for, and last night he carried himself with dignity and calmness. Shame on those who have tried to tear apart a person's very character while lauding a 'leader' with oh so many skeletons in his Downing Street closet.

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Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats were equally battered by the Brexit boxer, ending up with a campaign which could never carry the weight of ambition they loaded up with six weeks ago.

And they too are now 'sans' leader, as the French would say.

Jo Swinson never recovered from a harrowing Question Time appearance which saw her berated by members of the public throughout - a symbol of the campaign to come - and after losing her seat spoke of how last night's results would bring 'dismay' for many. And she's right.

President of the Lib Dems, Baroness Brinton, said "voices of nationalism and populism both north and south of the border beat both her in her seat and nationally as well".

The same could be said of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn, who would have been hopeful when this campaign got underway.

Ah, the innocent times of just six weeks ago, when it wasn't clear what impact Brexit would have.

By 11pm last night, it was crystal clear. Painfully so to Mr Corbyn and Ms Swinson.


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Back here in Somerset, there was never any real danger the blue wall would be breached.

In 2017, when the Tories had a bad night, MPs here increased their majorities.

And so it is no surprise that all of the county's Conservative encumbents return to Parliament on Monday, bags packed full of fresh loyalty from back home.

However, it was not always predicted to be quite so clear cut.

Nationally, there was genuine concern among the Conservative Party that a hung parliament was looking increasingly likely.

The Tories' campaign did not go well - and it descended at times into candidates peddling 'outright lies', as one of their own workers said.

Theresa May's unravelling campaign in 2017 was looking set to repeat itself a week or so ago, as Boris Johnson became embroiled in rows over hiding from interviews, on past remarks about homosexual people, Muslims and more, and then he put a journalist's phone in his pocket when refusing to look at a picture of a four-year-old child on the floor at A&E.

Not to mention the party being reprimanded by Twitter over a hapless and shameful social media stunt.

Many at CCHQ were avoiding looking at another picture - of 2017 repeating itself.

And in Taunton Deane and Wells, there were smatterings of discontent among the electorate.

The Liberal Democrats invested BIG in Taunton, and pursued some 'dodgy' campaign tactics themselves - and yes, that includes buying a wrap-around ad on the County Gazette, as well as some decidedly dodgy Facebook ads.

But you sensed there was hope among Lib Dem activists in Taunton Deane and in Wells, and more among Labour activists in Bridgwater.

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But when the Conservatives did hone in on the potential of a repeat of 2017's drifting message, the party machine did whatever it took to avoid it - which did include lying, giving false briefings to journalists and misrepresenting every other party, as well as employing some aggressive social media tactics here in Somerset.

This was not the straight-faced, strong-and-stable, thoroughly British spirit of fair play embodied by Theresa May.

No, this was the cut-throat, win-at-all-costs campaigning of Vote Leave.

And it worked.

They went where the votes were. They campaigned relentlessly on a single message, a message they knew (far better than the other parties) would play big when people stood in that polling booth.

And when the Lib Dems (and Labour in particular) could NOT see 2017 returning - when they managed to break through the Brexit noise and talk about other things - they could not find a way to repeat it, the message had been set by an effective Tory machine.

It became clear - over the past two years, Brexit has become too big an object to see beyond.

And Labour and the Lib Dems are now left facing a battle to reinvent themselves to have any hope of regaining some of the tranches of lost ground.

There's no doubt people want to 'get Brexit done', and Boris Johnson now has the chance to deliver.

He has the mandate he - and Theresa May - craved.

But he also has to deliver to the more-than 50% of voters who did not vote for him, including in Labour heartlands and Scottish constituencies on the verge of demanding a say over independence.

And if that oven-ready Brexit proves cold in the middle when the British people tuck in, then he could have a problem getting people to try anything else he cooks up...

But here in Somerset, it's business as usual.