Quote of the Day
“The Tories, every election, must have a bogy man. If you haven’t got a programme, a bogy man will do.”
Aneurin Bevan (Labour MP; 1897-1960)
Well, it is 1992 all over again. Not only did the polls get it wrong, but it would again appear that when polled people lied about who they were going to vote for. Which begs the question, if you’re so ashamed of telling people you are going to vote for someone, why on earth are you voting for them in the first place?
The Bogy Man for the Tories this time was the combined spectre of a Miliband/Sturgeon alliance, which seemingly terrified voters. Although Miliband had done a good job of steadily making himself the Bogy Man without any assistance over the past few years. It has been a terrible night for Labour, despite an increase in overall share of the vote.
For the Lib Dems, their foray into coalition has turned them into the electoral equivalent of target practice – the irony being that the people who have turned away from them for breaking promises have just let in the party responsible for them not being able to fulfil their aspirations in the first place.
So, the results as it stands with 566 of 650 seats declared:
Conservative – 266
Labour – 214
Lib Dem – 8
SNP – 55
UKIP – 1
Other – 22
The turnout was around 65%, not great but not terrible and certainly not poor enough for any sore losers to claim a lack of electoral legitimacy.
My big regret is not putting my money where my mouth is a few months ago when I predicted a narrow Conservative majority – it could still happen people and if I had just put my £10 down I would have been rich beyond my wildest dreams… Which is lucky, as austerity is clearly here to stay with the election results as they are.
So far it has been an election of scalp taking – Vince Cable (Business Secretary), Danny Alexander (Chief Secretary to the Treasury), Ed Davey (Lib Dem Energy Secretary), Simon Hughes (Justice Minister and long-standing Lib Dem MP and yellow cab driver), Jo Swinson (Lib Dem Junior Minister for Employment Relation), Douglas Alexander (Shadow Foreign Secretary), Jim Murphy (Scottish Labour Leader), Lynne Featherstone (Minister for the Home Office), Charles Kennedy (former Leader of the Lib Dems) all lost their seats.
As I write, Ed Balls is facing a recount – this would surely crown the night for Cameron and Osborne and would be the defining moment from the election?
The Lib Dems effectively don’t have a party anymore. As well as the above, they have lost Colchester, York, Solihull and others – the party must be ruing the day they went into coalition with the Tories nailing themselves into their coffin. As and when Nick Clegg goes it may be a challenge finding a replacement – who would want to be leader of a party which doesn’t even have enough MPs to field a parliamentary football team?
UKIP are trying to spin their results before they are all in. Thanet South, where Farage is standing, will not declare for a few hours yet but it is likely that they will get just the one seat with Douglas Carswell. UKIP are declaring the night a success due to how many places they polled second, tenuous but then they are politicians – much as they make the effort to look like they aren’t. Perhaps they will be advocating that we adopt a more European electoral system of proportional representation?
The Tories should not be celebrating just yet. They may well be the largest party but they do not – yet – have a majority. Even if they do manage to get a majority it will be slim and will rely on all of their MPs being in the Chamber to vote to get policies through if they don’t want to have to continually wheel and deal with other parties to get support. Cameron may yet regret losing his whipping boys as he wheels sick and dying elected members through the voting chamber to get policies through… Cameron could enlist the help of Elmo to rally the troops. Elmo stood against him in Witney, to rally the troops. Elmo campaigned and turned up to the count in full costume, polling 37 votes beating one of the Independents who polled a paltry 12 votes – you would expect more than that just with people putting a cross in the wrong box let alone with your friends and family voting for you.
Esther McVey lost her seat to Labour in Wirral West – this was a highly marginal seat and being the only Conservative MP on Merseyside must have been a little lonely so at least now she can go back to find her own kind. Nick de Bois in Enfield North also lost his seat to Labour.
No surprise that Boris Johnson won his seat – he may be one of a (reasonably large) handful of Conservatives who are somewhat disappointed at the unexpected success of the party meaning that his leadership ambitions are on the backburner for at least another five years. That is of course unless an ‘accident’ should befall the leader in the next five years. Still, there is always the US Presidential race next year and if they can love Sarah Palin surely they can adore Boris and perhaps take him off our hands? The next year will be interesting with Boris combining his ‘wife’ role as Mayor of London with his new ‘mistress’ role of MP – although allegedly he is adept at juggling such demanding, draining and time consuming jobs…
Early on, Labour tried to claim a humiliating result for Cameron because he ‘lost’ by not getting a majority. I’m not sure that the Conservatives – or indeed anyone else in the country – will view it that way given the low expectations for the Conservatives. Even Labour seemed to realise that was a bit of a stretch. However, they can comfort themselves in the knowledge that the Lib Dems are surely having at least as bad a night as they are.
A very nervous Vince Cable took the stage to find out he had lost his seat – it was very much a Portillo moment. Although the Conservative victor managed to be much more magnanimous than Stephen Twigg was during his Portillo scalping and actually shed a few tears when giving her speech and thanking Cable. The Lib Dems have lost deposits in so many seats that they are about to enter the Guinness Book of Records, so at least they have succeeded in something even if it is only in failure.
In Scotland, the predicted Labour wipe out by the SNP took place – the only area where the polls were right. Even Gordon Brown’s old seat turned SNP and Alec Salmond finds himself back in active politics as an MP rather than MSP. Labour may well be wishing that the Scottish Independence vote had gone the other way which would at least mean the lack of Scottish Labour MPs now in Parliament could be written off as the fault of the Tories for letting the Union break-up.
It is likely to be a night of long knives commencing later today when surely both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg will be teetering at the cliff edge with knives at their backs. Cue ‘never wrong for long’ Sky News deciding to show somewhat stalker-ish grainy footage shot with a long range camera of Nick Clegg in his home in Sheffield closing a window and a curtain. Nothing disturbing there at all… Clegg only retained his seat by a relatively small, and much reduced, margin (largely down to the Sheffield student campaign to get Clegg out); somewhere inside he is probably wishing he had lost the seat, that way he could just disappear off somewhere and leave someone else to clear up the mess. Clegg declared it a ‘cruel and punishing night’, which somewhat suggests that the punishment is unfair and not brought on by themselves, nothing like blinding yourself to the truth. Certainly the Morecambe and Wise tribute in the No.10 Rose Garden must seem but a distant and dreamlike memory…
UKIP retained the Clacton seat of Douglas Carswell but failed to win in other target seats although polled exceptionally well in unexpected areas – such as Sunderland South where they came second, which just shows how odd the electorate and elections really are. They also came second in a whole swathe of other seats, skewing some results and votes. They outpolled the Conservatives in Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford – Yvette Cooper’s seat (she increased her majority, which may be something that the Labour party want to take into consideration when looking for a new leader).
There was an incredibly close result in Thurrock, and a key Labour target, saw the Conservatives just clinch the vote to retain their seat with just a few hundred votes between Conservative, Labour and UKIP. UKIP also came second in Doncaster North, Ed Miliband’s seat. Although Miliband retained a good majority the fact that UKIP were the next largest party must be a worry.
Ed Miliband arrived at his count looking more ‘Wallace’ than ever with a grin pasted onto his face. He then looked as if he was going to vomit when waiting to go on stage for the result, probably wishing that he could just curl up under a rock somewhere and sleep through until 2016. Brilliantly, the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate stood directly behind Miliband throughout his ‘victory’ speech with an inane grin, rather neatly summing up Miliband overall and highly likely to be the residual image of Miliband in years to come.
Gorgeous George Galloway lost his seat in Bradford, conceded after a recount. He will now head back to London and run for Mayor of London – I would say that him as Mayor of London is unthinkable, but we all said that about Boris Johnson and, after the results of tonight anything is possible. He may well be better running in Tower Hamlets for the Mayoral position there as truly anything is possible there so long as you can engineer it without detection.
So, what does this all mean?? Well, it is likely to be a minority conservative government, no need for a formal coalition – and indeed no one really to form a coalition with given that the Conservatives wouldn’t go near the SNP or Labour as partners – or vice versa. This gives the Conservatives control over all Government posts, which will be a great relief to Cameron who still needs to pacify many disgruntled MPs who have missed out on Cabinet and government posts over the past five years and would be unlikely to tolerate it for another five years.
It means that we will be having a referendum on Europe by 2017. It means that we will finally get to see where exactly the axe will swing on those welfare cuts. It means that finally we will see some policy behind the promise to build all those lovely discounted homes on brownfield land. It means that right to buy in its declared form and with extensions to housing associations will come back with a vengeance, stoking demand and depleting supply – clearly a great way to deal with the housing crisis.
Obviously it also means that we are likely to see our fully formed new government sooner rather than later. The big question will be what happens to Captain Pickles, will he finally be usurped from DCLG? Who will take his place if so? Matt Hancock has always declared his desire to be king of housing despite blocking housing repeatedly in his own constituency in a ‘do as I say not as I do’ type of approach. What is almost certain is that Cameron is unlikely to put someone in post who knows what they are doing and understands the industry – both Mark Prisk and Nick Boles were clearly a little too controversial by being honest about how to achieve housing delivery.
Watch this space…