Sunday, 10 May 2015

UK General Election Results I: The Parties

The results of the UK election are in, and generally not what I was hoping.  Like basically everyone who had followed the polls, the final results surprised me.  But putting that aside, I have a lot of thoughts on the outcome, and what is a blog but a place for your opinions?  Like my pre-election thoughts, I have enough to say that I'm splitting everything into two posts.  Here, I'll talk about things solely in terms of the impact on parties.  My policy-related opinions will follow later.


The Tories are, obviously, one of the two big winners of the night.  They became the first party to win a majority in parliament since the election before the last one.  However, this government will have the smallest majority of any in my lifetime.  Also, all of their gains came at the expense of their former coalition partners; the Conservatives won 27 former Liberal Democrat seats, more than their 24-seat gain overall1.  They made a net loss of two seats against Labour, and one to UKIP.

One comment I saw on the TV was surprise that the government had gained seats, since that was unexpected and in any case rare.  Yet, if we consider the above comments, it's clear that they didn't.  The "gains" where simply a reallocation of votes within the coalition.  It's just that the losses the coalition suffered where heavily concentrated on the Lib Dems, and Cameron can now govern alone.

There are two other things worth commenting on about the Conservative's results.  The first, which I have seen noted, is the gains they made in Wales.  Three seats, two won from Labour, are the strongest performance in that country since the 80s.  I have seen some analysis blaming this on Labour taking the Welsh vote for granted, in particular blaming the last Labour election advert in Wales being weak and lacking Welsh speakers.  I haven't seen that, so can't really comment, but I think we need to wait and see whether that is true or this is the beginning of a major shift in Welsh politics.

Finally, something I haven't seen noted elsewhere is that the number of female Conservative politicians has increased by nearly 50%, from 47 to 68.  That gain is nearly as large as the overall Tory gains!  It still means that Conservative MPs are only one-fifth women, but it's still a positive development.

Scottish Nationalist Party

The SNP are the other really big winners.  I mentioned before the election started my mixed feelings towards them.  The consequences for Scottish independence I will mention in my other post-election comments.

All that I really have to say here is that someone I know opined that this was a protest vote that would not last beyond the next election.  I disagree, I think this represents a serious shift in Scottish politics, and it will be hard for the major parties to regain ground north of the border.  A lot will depend on how Cameron governs over the next parliament, and who the next Labour leader is.

Also, it's very depressing to see some people blame the SNP for the Conservative victory.  These are left-wing people who I really want to slap.  Even if all the SNP seats had gone to Labour, which they wouldn't, the Tories would still have won; this is Primary School Maths.


Labour lost seats in this election, and so Ed Miliband pretty much had to resign.  The interesting thing is that those losses came in Scotland (to the SNP) and Wales (to the Conservatives).  In England, Labour gained 15 seats, 11 from the Lib Dems and a net gain of 3 from the Conservatives.  That's still a pretty small gain, of course, but it's worth remembering.

With Miliband's resignation, the obvious question is who the next leader will be.  I think that, based on the whole election campaign, we'll see someone like Blair or Cameron: young and media-savvy, politics be damned. Which is not exactly a good thing, as it means that people care more about appearances than ideas.  Also, as a geeky wierdo, Miliband was the closest any major party leader has been to me on a personal level that I can remember, so I have another reason to be sad at his defeat.

Also, despite losing seats the number of female Labour MPs increased, from 87 to 99.  At over 40%, that's quite impressive.  Indeed, only the Greens, whose sole representative is Caroline Lucas, have a better female representation.

Liberal Democrats

I actually voted for the Lib Dems in the first General Election I was eligible.  I would not have this time around, and I think these facts are not unrelated.  A lot of the Lib Dem growth over the last decade came from disillusioned lefties, who would not exactly be happy with their role in the Coalition.  Breaking their promise on tuition fees will also have cost them among students who abandoned Labour over that very issue.

However, when you look at where seats switched in the UK, there is an interesting thing.  In total, 111 seats changed hands compared to the last election, with 50 of those being SNP wins.  16 of the rest came in the South-West, the most in any single region.  Of those, 14 where Conservative wins from the Lib Dems.  Indeed, when you consider that the Lib Dems lost more seats to the Tories than to Labour and the SNP combined, it's clear that my analysis above misses something.

That thing is probably Europe.  The Lib Dems have consistently been the most pro-EU party, and that's not the way the mood is in the country.  If you look at the share of the vote in England, the Lib Dems lost 16%, with the Tories gaining 1.4% and Labour 3.6%.  Where did the rest of that vote go?  Well, the biggest gain was UKIP, who increased their vote share by 10.7%.  I'll talk more about that below, but even if few voters directly switched from yellow to purple, it still tells us a lot.

I think this basically kills this party for now.  They had their chance, and they didn't manage to win any friends in doing so.  Maybe in 20 or 30 years they can come back, but for now I don't see any way back.


UKIP have had a mixed performance here.  On the one hand, they won their first ever seat in a General Election and received the third most votes in the UK as a whole (12.6%).  One of their biggest desires, a referendum on EU membership, was promised by the Tories.  On the other hand, they only actually won the one seat, and party leader Farage failed in his bid, leading to his resignation.

I'm a fan of (some form of) proportional representation, and as dirty as it makes me to say it, this means UKIP should have more seats.  It also depresses me that so many people voted for these bastards.  Yes, I knew this would happen, but I still don't like it.  Most of the rest I have to say relates to the referendum, which I'm deferring to my second post.  Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go shower.


Let's finish on something a bit more palatable.  I'm not a perfect fit with the Greens, thanks to their anti-scientific positions on nuclear power and (especially) GMOs.  But on most other issues, and especially the serious threat posed by climate change, I do agree with them.  They picked up their highest vote share ever, though at 3.8% they finished behind the SNP in sixth place overall.  They also were unable to add to their solitary win from last time, though at least they held it.

The question for the Greens is if they can continue to make gains from here.  I'd love to see that happen, but I'm not sure how it will.  In the next election, I expect a greater consolidation of the English left-wing vote around Labour, now that the Tories have managed an outright majority.  With politics apparently heading back towards a standard two-party system after a brief flirtation with coalitions, the Greens may find themselves even more ignored in the press.  So while I'd like to see them continue to do better, I'm not hopeful.

Finally, I don't really have anything intelligent to say on Plaid Cymru or the Northern Irish parties.  My apologies if any of my few readers are supporters of any of them.

1 Not counting the formerly-Conservative but officially now non-partisan Speaker, John Bercow

No comments:

Post a Comment