Traders left twiddling their thumbs as massacre unfolds

Chris Hughes spent election night on Bank of America's trading floor, where all bets were off
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The Independent Online
In the City, the Tories went out not with a Big Bang but a whimper. Although the dealing rooms, many of which remained open throughout election night, had expected a Labour victory, traders none the less struggled to come to terms with the unfolding landslide.

At Bank of America, where the foreign exchange trading floor is usually deserted at night, a handful of dealers were working through election night in the expectation that business would be generated by the uncertainty following the result.

The exit polls, however, quashed hopes that there would be anything to bet on. Currency dealers accustomed to making multi-million pound split- second decisions found themselves twiddling their thumbs as certainty, the speculator's enemy, prevailed. There was nothing to do but watch nervously as red "LAB GAIN" graphics flashed on their television screens.

"A complete waste of time," was a common refrain. "There won't be any champagne," said Nick Probert, chief trader. "I think most people will be looking for visas to work in other countries.

"After a hung parliament, this is the worst case scenario. The market needs volatility to make money. Ideally we'd have seen either party win with a small majority," he added.

Plans to profit from the result were quickly dashed. "I've bought cartloads of pounds," Mr Probert said. "Political uncertainty has been removed, and interest rates are sure to rise."

At midnight the market had not moved, but he remained confident. "It's early days yet." By 2am, be was struggling to find anyone to deal with, and altered his plans.

"I must admit sterling's actually gone down. It's beginning to look not too good," he said.

Bored, Bank of America's 10 traders kicked off an impromptu game of American football until someone scored a direct hit on another's radio-controlled Ferrari perched on a dealing terminal. Attention returned to the unfolding drama of the election, jaws dropping at the loss of true-blue Edgbaston.

"In my heart of hearts I knew Labour would win, but this is ridiculous. This is a massacre," said one dealer. "I find it very hard to believe Blair will stick to his promise not to raise income tax. Labour's always soaked the rich. I preferred honest John."

The last straw came when the Labour leader's victory speech promised a society which included all classes and which was about more than "ringing- up the next deal".

"That says it all. I don't feel included," said one dealer. He was interrupted by another shouting triumphantly at the television, "You're not having Woking, Mr Blair." Within the hour the Tory defeat had been accepted and many dealers were asleep in their chairs.

The day shift arrived to prepare for the first day of trading under New Labour. One would be Deborah, winner of the dealing floor sweepstake on the size of the Labour majority.