AFTER the Tory tidal wave of 2019 has come the Starmer tsunami of 2024. Boris Johnson swept away the red wall, and the old voting certainties, but on Sir Keir’s rising tide practically all the bricks have been washed back in to place.

This was an election about kicking out the Tories, and the electorate did so with devastating efficiency. Of the Tees Valley Tories, only Matt Vickers in his new look Stockton West seat kept his head above water and, of course, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak kept hold of Richmond, but with a greatly reduced majority.

Elsewhere, the Starmer tsunami gurgled through, from Redcar right up to north Durham, and this time it didn’t stop at the county boundary: Hexham surprisingly elected its first Labour MP since the seat was created in 1885.

But while the electoral map of the North East is painted red once more, the second story of the night revolves around a colour that is nowhere to be seen on it: the turquoise of Reform UK.

Nigel Farage’s insurgent party won no seats. In numbers terms it didn’t even come close to returning a North East MP to Parliament – even in Hartlepool, which the exit poll said was 91 per cent likely to elect a Reform MP, the party was 7,698 votes behind Labour.

But it took 24.5 per cent of the vote, and pushed the sitting Conservative MP into third place.

In neighbouring Newton Aycliffe & Spennymoor – the radically redesigned Sedgefield seat – it again won 24 per cent of the vote and pushed the sitting Conservative MP into third place.

In much of Newcastle and all of Sunderland, Reform was the second biggest party; in Easington it won 29.8 per cent of the vote. All practically from nowhere.

Equally interestingly, in most seats, the Reform vote added to the Conservative vote would have overtaken Labour – can this herald, somehow, a uniting of the two right-of-centre parties, or will Mr Farage push on in his bid to destroy the Tories?

In Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland (MSEC), there was no Reform candidate so this left a good old-fashioned two-way dogfight, with Simon Clarke, the sitting Conservative, only losing out by 214 votes.

This marks a massive moment in the topsy-turvy Tory time of Sir Simon – knighted by Mr Johnson, momentarily he was a big hitter in Liz Truss’s ill-fated government and then he became the first high profile Conservative to call for Mr Sunak’s head. Now, at the age of 39, he too is gone when, but for 214 votes, he might have had a major role to play to reshaping his party.

The MSEC result indicates that although the map suggests a powerful Starmer tsunami has swept through, in many seats, Labour gently lapped their way to power, certainly in the Tees Valley where less than two months ago mayor Ben Houchen was the Tories only bright spot in the local elections.

At the Darlington count, local Tories were hopeful they could at least run Labour close enough to force a recount. They fell short, but Peter Gibson only lost to Lola McEvoy by 2,298 votes – that doesn’t indicate the sound thrashing that the Tories got elsewhere in the country.

And Mr Vickers held Stockton West. Formerly, he was the Stockton South MP but boundary changes meant that his seat gained the Conservative-minded villages to the east of Darlington. He was defending a notional majority of 11,749 and came home with a majority of 2,139.

It suggests that the Conservative vote in the Tees Valley held up in a way it didn’t elsewhere – City of Durham, for instance, delivered the humiliating sight of the Conservative candidate limping in fourth with just 13 per cent of the vote.

Mr Sunak, despite his D-Day error which went down very badly with the military voters in his constituency, was returned with one of the largest Tory majorities anywhere in the country: 12,185.

For his party, it was a historically disastrous performance. Mr Sunak goes down in history as winning the lowest share of the vote in the 200 year age of democracy in this country: in 1832, after the Great Reform Act, the Duke of Wellington managed just 29.2 per cent, but Mr Sunak took the Tories lower, to 25.8 per cent.

So it does look like a Starmer tsunami has swept Labour to power. But a final note of caution, which a cautious politician like Mr Starmer will be concerned about.

Turnout was low, down in most places by five per cent on 2019. In some parts of Sunderland, it barely scraped above 50 per cent – an indication of apathy, a complete disengagement with the political process or a massive lack of enthusiasm for any of the parties?

Labour has won a massive majority but only with a small vote.