So it’s 5 years of Tory government.
Unadulterated Tory government this time as they gained seats against what the polls had indicated throughout the campaign and the Liberal Democrats capitulated. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats lost so many deposits they could have been mistaken for an absent minded banker. It seems only the Liberal Democrats themselves didn’t see their apocalypse coming. When the exit polls predicted their lowly seat count once the voting had closed Paddy Ashdown immediately rubbished them and declared that if correct he would, “eat his hat”. R.I.P. Paddy Ashdown’s hat. It was very rarely seen in public much like the Liberal Democrats of today. Let’s not forget that in the run up to the 2010 election when everyone was clambering to “agree with Nick”, the Liberal Democrats, under Clegg, had gained popularity using the left-leaning base that Charles Kennedy had previously solidified before turning to drink. Clegg had campaigned not for austerity, but similarly to Gordon Brown’s Labour had criticised the Conservative thinking of cutting welfare and public services as opposed to public investment to stimulate growth. Here is why Nick Clegg’s gambit of entering a coalition with the Conservatives was always going to be their downfall. You can’t pick up votes and seats using a left-leaning set of values and then prop up a right-wing Tory government. In effect they conned their own support and have paid a heavy but highly predictable price.
What happened to Labour though? Let’s be frank. Five years ago they picked the wrong man. Ed Miliband never convinced as a leader, rarely looked comfortable (with or without a bacon sandwich) and just didn’t strike anybody as a plausible winner. If one of the best moments in your election campaign is the trending Twitter hashtag of a 17 year-old girl then that really speaks volumes. Moving forward it is now so important that Labour picks the right person to start their recovery. There is now a debate, driven largely by a right-wing media, as to whether or not Ed Miliband’s Labour positioned itself too far to the left of centre-ground politics. This is well worth looking at more closely. In Scotland there was a very clear left-wing anti-austerity choice with a convincing party leader leading the charge. The result for Labour was a Nicola Sturgeon led SNP destroying the former safe Labour heartlands North of the Border. In England, there was no such credible anti-austerity ticket. You could have austerity max, austerity, austerity light or mildly racist. Labour lost votes to UKIP because many of its traditional voters lost trust in them as a party of working people. Sadly those defectors were falling for the Nigel Farage “man of the people” routine and “blame everything on immigrants” lines. Others, to a lesser extent, voted Green in terms of it having the most left-leaning policies available to vote for. Would this have happened though with a well reasoned, firm and credible rejection of Conservative austerity akin to what the Scots clearly chose in their thousands?
Overall, it was a nightmare for progressive politics in the United Kingdom. A Conservative majority in the House of Commons, an annihilation of the Liberal Democrats, Labour almost 100 seats behind the Tories and a popular, progressive SNP sweeping Scotland but without enough progressive allies to keep the Conservatives at bay.
At least Nigel Farage didn’t con the electorate of South Thanet.
Bloody polls eh?!!