NINE years ago, I sat in Westlands Entertainment Venue in Yeovil when the Liberal Democrats’ traditional heartland were swept away by David Cameron’s pre-Brexit Conservatives, with Marcus Fysh and David Warburton riding the so-called ‘blue wave’ and turning their respective seats (Yeovil and Somerton & Frome) into safe Tory strongholds.

If a week is a long time in politics, then nine years is a near-eternity. Even the thumping victory of 2019 seems half a world away – especially for Mr Warburton, who stepped down as an MP in June 2023 following a protracted probe into harassment allegations.

Sarah Dyke won the seat in the resulting by-election last July, and the Lib Dems threw everything they had to ensuring the rematch against Tory challenger and fellow Somerset Council division member Faye Purbrick would yield the same result.

Returning to Yeovil nine years on from the ‘blue wave’ election, the mood was very different.

Since Yeovil itself has never been considered a Labour stronghold, the reaction to the exit poll predicting Keir Starmer’s landslide was muted. People just went about their business respectfully as the first ballot boxes rolled in for verification.

By midnight, nearly all the ballot boxes had arrived, and verification proceeded in a civilised manner as the first Labour wins started to trickle through.

It wasn’t until around 4am that both sides being counted at Yeovil were ready to declare – and in quick succession, Ms Dyke had solidified her position and Mr Fysh’s near-decade in Westminster had come to an end at the hands of South Petherton’s Adam Dance.

From there, the results came thick and fast as Somerset turned orange, with Tessa Munt returning to parliament after a nine-year gap as she triumphed in the new Wells and Mendip Hills seat.

Tiverton and Minehead saw longstanding Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger deposed, while Gideon Amos won around twice the votes of Tory incumbent Rebecca Pow, another MP elected in 2015.

By the time Anna Sabine was confirmed as the winner in Frome and East Somerset, six out of Somerset’s seven seats had turned orange – the only exception being Bridgwater, where Ashley Fox held off a strong Labour challenge and won by around 1,300 votes.

So, what do the election results mean – especially when it comes to Somerset’s future?

Labour can rightly celebrate their remarkable result, moving in five years from their worst result since 1935 to within a few seats shy of Tony Blair’s seismic landslide of 1997.

But the extent of that turnaround is more than an endorsement of Starmer – it is a warning of how quickly goodwill can evaporate.

For the Conservatives to go from unbeatable to unelectable in five years is astonishing, and if Labour does not begin to deliver on its election programme rapidly, it could find itself staring down a similar barrel in 2028 or 2029.

With a healthy contingent of Lib Dems fighting for the south west, Labour must ensure that rural areas are not left behind when it comes to new teachers and GPs, as well as economic growth.

And with Reform grabbing a very loud foothold (and outpolling the Tories in a number of seats), Starmer’s pledge to take action on small boats will be tested strongly, especially as the summer rolls forward.

With the UK’s political landscape more fractured than ever before, the issue of electoral reform may rear its not-so-ugly head before the next parliament is up.

As for the Conservatives, they have several years to lick their wounds and regroup. Given the resilience at the ballot box since the mid-19th century, reports of their extinction may be greatly exaggerated.

History suggests they will elect a more extreme leader first time around in a bid to claw back votes lost to Reform, but their long-term path back to power lies in recapturing the centre ground.

One thing is for sure: the next five years are not going to be boring.