Friday, 8 May 2015

Election Catastrophe - Is It 2020 Yet?

I feel more than a little depressed. As I write all but one of the UK’s 650 constituencies have returned their result from yesterday’s General Election. Shockingly, the Tories have secured an overall majority of seats in the House Of Commons. Only a small majority (maybe around 12 seats) but a majority nonetheless. This is not how we were told things would turn out.

We were told by every leading media source in the weeks leading up to the election that none of the parties would secure a majority. All the talk was of what deals could be done between the parties to try and form a new coalition. No doubt all the major party leaders had been in talks with each other on the subject, and they spent long hours fending off questions from the media about possible alliances.

And then we had the exit poll. Remember that cricket match analogy I strangled yesterday? The one about four days of rain and everyone trying to force a result on the fifth day before going home early? Well perhaps we can think of the exit poll announcement just after 10.00 last night as the moment when both sides forfeited an innings before one captain or the other offered a ludicrously generous declaration. The exit poll had it that the Tories would win 316 of the 326 seats they would need to secure an overall majority in the house (technically 323 as Sinn Fein don’t take up their seats in the UK parliament – what are they running for then?). It also had Labour floundering way behind on 239 and the Liberal Democrats facing perhaps a more predictable clobbering, losing 47 of their seats to slip to just 10 in the entire house.

It was so preposterous that in the early hours of the BBC’s election coverage the great and the garbage among UK politicians queued up to tell us that the poll was wrong, that 11 YouGov polls had previously predicted a fiendishly tight race that would likely end in another hung parliament. Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown declared that he would eat his hat if the exit poll was anywhere near correct, but only if the hat was made of marzipan. It was that sort of night. The shiver down the spine upon viewing the exit poll had clearly been enough to consume Ashdown in witlessness. Tory bastard Michael Gove agreed, however, advising caution to all the watching bastards. Let’s not celebrate just yet, was the message. The SNP were similarly quick to play down the outlandish exit poll which had them winning 58 of the 59 seats in Scotland. That result would all but sink Labour hopes of an overall majority, but there was still the hope of some involvement in a coalition at that point.

And yet somehow the result is even worse. I was only seven at the time, but this is how grown-ups must have felt when Margaret Thatcher won a second term in 1983. The Tories currently have 331 seasts, Labour only 232 while the SNP have made off with a staggering 56 of the 59 available in Scotland. Five more years of Tory austerity it is then, and five more years of Tory austerity that is likely to finish us off. Without a junior partner in government beside them they will be free to make even more wild, savage cuts than they have over the last five year parliamentary term. They can work uninterrupted on their thinly veiled dream of privatising the NHS in a system which will ensure that the state of your health will have a direct correlation with the state of your bank balance. The poor and, dare I say it without coming across like I’m feeling rather too sorry for myself, the disabled, will be favourite targets for Cameron, Osbourne and the despicable IDS while those with the most will continue to get tax relief. At the very least, their tax dodging, loophole finding chicanery will be allowed to take place with a blind eye turned. I think I’m going to vomit.

So how did it all happen? How did a race that was not supposed to be won outright turn into 316 Tory seats in an exit poll to 331 in reality? There are a few explanations offered. One is the bewildering dominance of the SNP in Scotland. Led by elf-like, ubiquitous ballache Nicola Sturgeon they stated before the election that they would help keep the Tories out of Downing Street. If anything, their obliteration of Labour north of the border has all but sealed the deal for Cameron and his cohorts. I can’t really see how the SNP thought that their success would have any other outcome. But then you can’t criticise a party for winning seats and playing a part in the democratic process. That’s what it is there for. Still, it’s quite baffling to me to note that just months after voting to stay in the UK the Scottish people have elected a squillion MP’s from a party whose sole aim appears to be to leave the UK. All of which leaves me scratching my head. Perhaps Labour’s stock is just that low in Scotland. Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy lost his seat, which gives us some indication of the state of the party up there. The Scottish clearly can’t bring themselves to vote Tory but they have done the next best thing. In droves.

Incidentally Murphy was not the only, or even the most high profile MP to lose his seat in the carnage. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has gone, as have Liberal Democrat heavyweights Danny Alexander and Vince Cable. Somehow Nick Clegg managed to hold on to Sheffield Hallam but that hasn’t stopped him from falling on his sword and resigning as Liberal Democrat leader alongside Labour leader Ed Milliband and frog-faced UKIP clown Nigel Farage who was also defeated in his constituency. Though Clegg was given a reprieve in his own constituency, he was always likely to pay a heavy price for the betrayal of the party that was hopping in to bed with the Conservatives after the 2010 hung parliament. He will argue that he and his party colleagues played a vital role in limiting the damage that could have been done had Cameron had free reign, but had he left the Tories to try to form a minority government he would arguably have had as much power or more to vote down anything that had too much of a right-wing whiff about it. What he would give for that opportunity now.

There is more head-scratching when considering how it came to be that those Liberal Democrat voters who furiously abandoned their party turned Tory blue rather than Labour red. Where were all the left-leaning Liberals voting Labour to punish their erstwhile leader? Surely not voting for Nige and his band of bigots and gaffsters? UKIP only won one seat as even Farage hilariously got ran out of town in Thanet, yet their overall 12.6% share of the vote is the third highest of any party behind only the Conservatives and Labour. Thankfully they are a long way behind the big two, but they will argue that their rise continues. But you can’t help but wonder how much of their 9.5% increase in vote share was gained courtesy of furious protest voters abandoning the Liberal Democrats, whether they had previously leaned left or right. Even voters who are left wing in most aspects of politics are not immune to succumbing to their inner racist.

There are fewer laughs in this piece than I expected to be honest. I thought maybe I could bring a kind of gallows humour to it, but another five years of Tory savagery is a baron featureless desert for comedy, particularly in the hours after they have claimed what is still a shock overall majority. All that can happen now is for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to re-group, and find new leaders who will convince the electorate and particularly the swathes of new SNP voters that they can again be credible opposition to Cameron, currently sat smugly aboard his runaway toff train, no doubt thinking of new ways he can annihilate the poor.

I did say I felt more than a little bit depressed……….

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