Well, it’s finally here and indeed it was as close as everyone was expecting. People were out casting their votes two days ago and so finally the results are with us. However, before we start looking into what we could be faced with let’s have a look at what was predicted.
Without doubt no party was predicted to get a majority and the SNP were set to gain a considerable increase in seats. Yesterday a series of polls had Labour and Conservatives very close with neither holding a significant majority over the other. 326 seats is what both parties were after and it seemed clear that neither would get that majority and that a coalition was imminent. Support for the two major parties, Labour and Conservatives, had significantly declined over the years and this seemed to be manifesting itself in support for the ‘smaller’ parties. UKIP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP were all looking to make gains on their previous record by muscling in where Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat once were. A Liberal Democrat wipe-out was also predicted and the once “king-mak[ing]” Lib Dems were bound to lose their foothold.
Before the results were out what were the predicted outcomes? The already established coalition was one definite choice but it seemed clear that the Tories and Lib Dems were not keen to return to this arrangement. It had worked and failed in its own way and it did not seem that this was the most likely outcome. Also it seemed possible that Labour and the Liberals might take up in a coalition together which would form a new slightly left of centre coalition. It wasn’t necessarily unpopular but Labour seemed as if they did not want to be tarnished by the Liberals and the Liberals felt that they had taken enough flak from Labour since the last election. What was guaranteed is that the SNP would not deal with the Conservatives, UKIP or the DUP but had agreed to prop up a Labour government in return for some policies. It was all very uncertain as to who would be Prime Minister and who would form the coalition. Firstly the votes had to be placed and the seats won.
The Exit Poll showed us that the Conservatives had a significantly larger lump than Labour sitting at 316 while Labour were at 239 but there was definitely going to be a coalition or a minority government. The SNP were said to have 58 which was only one short of the full 59 seats in Scotland and UKIP only sat with 2 which was significantly fewer seats than Nigel Farage had hoped for. The Lib Dems unsurprisingly were thought to have been wiped out with only 10 seats across the UK. Labour seemed to be facing a legitimacy problem. Truly, the Exit Poll was suggesting that the Tories could quite comfortably form a minority government. What was the reality?
In Scotland, Scottish Labour were ruined and indeed the SNP completely dominated the country in an unpredicted way. It was a wipe-out. David Mundell kept his seat. SNP had taken Scotland and in the words of Alex Salmond, “…the Scottish Lion has roared!” In the end 56 seats is what they held, 3 short of the total and 2 short of the Exit Poll: a significant victory.
Looking further afield we can see the Lib Dem share of the vote had fallen through the floor but alarmingly although UKIP were not set to win many seats their share of the vote was through the roof – they were coming second in many seats.
Overall David Cameron was looking more and more unlikely to need to build a coalition because he would either have the full majority he was eventually predicted to get or he would have a significant minority government with Labour holding too few seats for it to matter.
At the end of it all we are now sitting in an absolute Tory majority with 331 seats with only one in Scotland. Overall in Scotland the Tories are the third biggest party with SNP holding 50% of the Scottish vote. Labour and the Lib Dems were decimated in Scotland and indeed they will need to decide how they progress from here. Without a doubt with SNP holding 56 of the Scottish seats they now hold power in Scotland.
In England Labour were also decimated when they only returned 232 MPs having lost 26 since 2010. Labour have truly been wiped out by the Conservatives in England and the Liberals did not do any better when they only returned 8 MPs having lost 49 MPs and, more crucially, centuries of progress. The Greens have overall increased their share of the vote but disappointingly did not win any more seats than Caroline Lucas’ in Brighton Pavilion.
There are no possibilities of government to ponder because the Tories wiped the floor. However, we can only hope that there are concessions made for Scotland due to the fact that the SNP took the country by storm. Also, I feel sad that our English brothers and sisters voted resoundingly Conservative and, by the share of the vote, UKIP, but there is almost no room to complain. The English and Welsh have made their bed and so they better lie in it.
At the end of it all we can see that it is no longer about left or right wing but about sticking to your principles and honesty. Miliband tried too hard to appease too many parts of his party and as a result lost his focus – he is gone. Nick Clegg compromised too much and compromised, most crucially, on the student fees issue during the coalition – he is gone. Farage, even though managing a significant share of the vote, only managed one seat – he is gone. Many significant Labour and Liberal MPs have gone because they all lost sight of their principles and an honest approach. With particular attention on Labour, they have strayed too far from their roots and now people are finding other solutions. In some ways the political elite is being broken up but in other ways consolidated.
Let’s hope the next five years are kind on those who need the most help.
Image: Paddy Power election stunt featuring party leaders © www.flickr.com/eepaul.