Saturday, May 09, 2015

For the Left the Election was bad, but all is not lost !

Well how bad was that ? Unless you are a Conservative it couldn't have been much worse. And if you are an opinion pollster you should hang your head in shame. The idea that the Tories could have a majority over Labour of 99 Seats was inconceivable. It wasn't just that over the many weeks of the campaign not one of the hundreds of polls suggested such an outcome. It was that not one of them picked up trends in voter attitudes that made it plausible. They were, in a short phrase, a complete waste of time. With one exception. Most of the polls did pick up what was underway in Scotland which perhaps helped make it happen. Certainly the SNP sailed with that particular wind and the voters followed them.

So what now? It is extraordinary that a campaign dominated by the idea that the UK has become a multi party democracy should deliver the opposite! In Scotland there is really only One party - and in England only two. The traditional third party has been destroyed and has been reduced to the statistical irrelevance they were back in the 1960s when they could last fit their contingent in a taxi. The First Past The Post voting system has been cruel to the LibDems, and catastrophic for the Greens and UKIP. To get 3.8m votes as the latter did and only one MP is scandalous - and I say that as someone who despises everything that UKIP stands for!

The minor parties can play a small part in Parliament, but the real action will be around the big two, and of course the SNP. Labour plus the Scottish Nationalists (their ideological cousins, Independence aside) have a total of 288 seats. Add in the eight LibDems, the Green and a few sympathisers from the "others" column and you could muster 300 or so in a vote. This means that if there is an issue on which just 15 or so Tories could be persuaded to vote against their Government it could be defeated. 

In the recent Parliament Tory revolts came mainly from their Right. The awkward squad of Eurosceptics and NeoCons. That may happen again, of course, but such a revolt would be easily defeated as it would gather no support from opposition party members. A much more likely, and intriguing, possibility would be a revolt for the Tory Left. They really could come into their own, and liberals of all parties will hope they do. Tory grandee Ken Clarke is back for, perhaps, a last hurrah. Free of the burdens of office he will, I guess, vote with his conscience and together with like-minded Conservatives such as Domininc Grieve he could stop illiberal policies such as the withdrawal of the UK from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). I doubt that pro EU Tories like Clarke would try and stop an EU Referendum Bill being passed, but the arithmetic might be there for them if they chose to do so. 

The Left was roundly defeated in the General Election (except in Scotland) and the Conservatives have a clear mandate to govern. But there are issues, such as ECHR, fox-hunting, the badger cull and social/fiscal policy (the Bedroom Tax) where David Cameron may struggle to get a majority in Parliament. Yes the election was bad, but all is not lost !


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