Showing posts with label Elections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elections. Show all posts

Saturday 10 October 2015

Lib Dem Battlegrounds in 2016

The 2016 elections are particularly important as first major post-Coalition test for the Lib Dems. Many Lib Dems will hope that leaving the Coalition will allow a relatively immediate recovery in Lib Dem fortunes, especially if Tim Farron and the party manage to make some noise over the next 6 months in opposition to government policies. If recovery does not begin in 2016 it means that losing the Coalition will not be enough and Lib Dem recovery will be much more difficult, if possible at all.

There are four separate contests next May: Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, English Locals and the London elections, all last fought in either 2011 and 2012.  It has been said many times but it needs remembering that the Lib Dems took huge losses during the Coalition.  They lost 2000 councillors (about half their total), 11 out of 16 MSPs in Scotland and 1 out of 6 Welsh AMs as well as many MPs and MEPs. All these contests in 2016 pose their own unique challenges.  Basically, the political scene has got a lot more crowded in the last decade. In each of these arenas the Lib Dems face a more complicated problem than just hoping their support drifts back from Labour or the Conservatives.


There is the least to say about the London elections.  The Lib Dems are not going to win the Mayoral election short of a major miracle, nor are they likely to win any Assembly constituencies. They haven't won a single one since the Assembly was founded and in 2012 they didn't even come 2nd anywhere. Their best result is likely to be to use the Mayoral and constituency campaigns to motivate and maximise Lib Dem list votes across London to maintain the party's two list AMs or even capture a further one. 

The English locals are possibly the most significant of the 4 contests, given the sheer number of people involved: thousands of councillors. Interestingly, the long-term slide of local Lib Dems does not start in 2011 with the Coalition. Lib Dem losses stretch unbroken back to 2008, which itself was a small rise that failed to replace the losses of 2007. It was as far back as 2006 that the Lib Dems saw their last real sustained peak in councillor numbers. This period from 2002-2006 was also the period of peak Lib Dem MP numbers and by-election results. This reflects a time when both Conservative and Labour parties were weak and the Lib Dems forged a USP for themselves by opposing the Iraq War and Tuition fees. With the Conservative revival that started with David Cameron's election in late 2005 the Lib Dems already began to struggle, as they did in the Commons in the 2010 election well before the meltdown this May.

This poses an opportunity for Lib Dem councillors now. Starting from a low base they are well placed to benefit from an electorate sick of current councils who have been in post for years, and seeking to 'cast the rascals out'. Some evidence for optimism comes as well in the form of council by-elections since May. 34 council by-elections since the general where the Lib Dems put up a candidate before have seen an average increase in vote share of 5%, and over all by-elections since May the Lib Dems have made a net gain of 11 seats. The question is what can be the Lib Dem’s unique selling point for next May? Local pavement (literally) issues? Credible opposition to the 
Tories (unlike Labour’s hard-leftism)? Or something else? 

The big factor that complicates this is the recent rise of UKIP particularly, and also the Greens. UKIP now have over 500 councillors from almost none in 2010, and the Greens have posted much smaller gains. In some places like Solihull multiple Lib Dem councillors have defected to the Greens losing a block of experienced councillors and campaigners. Local elections work on a 4 year cycle e.g. the 2016 elections follow on from 2012. UKIP's success in local elections began in 2013 with a big increase in their support that year, so it's likely it will continue in 2016 (the 4th year of the cycle), risking squeezing out the Lib Dems in more areas. No longer can the Lib Dems rely on being the only opposition to the Tories in rural areas and the only opposition to Labour in the cities. 

The state of the Tory/Labour battle in England is more uncertain. Nobody knows whether something will come along to blow the government off course by next May, nor do we know what effect Jeremy Corbyn's election will have by next year for good or ill. But, the Lib Dems are still easily Britain's 3rd largest party in local government. The party has about three times as many councillors as the Greens and UKIP combined, with a higher profile, more manpower, and seemingly at the moment a fairer wind behind them. The English councils seem the Lib Dems' best chance to see some genuine gains next May, which would be a big morale boost across England, and give real substance to hope of further gains in coming years. 


Scotland has been a heartland for the Liberal Democrats dating back to when they were the Whigs before the 1850's. In recent years party has actually been less popular in Scotland than England (19% vs 24% in 2010) but has been much more effective at turning that into seats in both Westminster and Holyrood. Sadly that is no more. Lib Dem MPs and MSPs combined have gone from 27 in 2010 to 6 now. Any recovery will be an uphill battle primarily against the SNP. The sheer scale of SNP wave is incredible, easily topping 50% in polls for 2016 so far and even 60% in some. Certainly at this rate the SNP vote share will be up from 2011. The SNP wave may be topped up even further by people voting SNP in constituencies but voting Green on the Lists, thus effectively manipulating the system into maximising pro-Independence representation even more, making progress harder still.

Even a relatively respectable increase in the number of Lib Dem votes may not be enough to maintain crucial vote share. The Scottish Conservatives in May 2015 actually increased their vote by 22,000 but still suffered a small fall in percentage share. Turnout in the 2011 Holyrood elections was 50%; given what happened at the referendum and the general election it seems pretty likely turnout will rise sharply in 2016, increasing the number of votes needed to even stand still. Vote share in Lib Dem held seats in Scotland actually held up well in May 2015, with some of the lowest falls across Britain, though it did no good in retaining constituencies on the mainland. On one hand this gives a good platform to attempt to maintain votes into 2016, on the other hand it risks being a mirage, as there is no incentive for Unionist tactical votes on the crucial list vote this time round.

It is hard to see what Scottish Lib Dems can do. They're currently polling around their 2011 support and they have the same problem as Labour: voters convinced by Independence have little reason to stay Lib Dem when that issue is so important to them. This is unless they can carve out a distinctive niche on particularly LD issues (like civil rights and the failure of Police Scotland) and make that of comparable importance to some voters. The LDs are now very much Scotland's 4th party in size, whether on councils, Westminster (votes) or in Holyrood, which raises the problem again of gaining a voice in a crowded media environment. They need to carve out a distinct voice that is opposed to both the SNP and Labour.

In 2011 the party elected 2 constituency MSPs in Shetlands and Orkney, and a single list MSP in each of 'Mid Scotland and Fife', 'North East Scotland' and 'South Scotland'. The good news is total annihilation isn't going to happen. Even if Shetlands and/or Orkney constituencies fall continued Lib Dem strength in the Highlands and Islands (the only region the Lib Dems polled a respectable 3rd in 2011) should see List MSPs elected there to compensate.

It is impossible to forecast what will happen to the other 3 list MSPs due to the vagaries of the AMS system. They all polled 5-7% of the vote in 2011 and if they can maintain vote share they have a good chance of hanging on but are severely threatened by the rise of the Scottish Greens competing for those bottom list seats, further increases in the SNP share above them, and even a possible modest Tory revival.

On the other hand gains are possible. If the Lib Dems can focus liberal or unionist anti-SNP votes in particular constituencies, probably most likely in the South of Scotland or Lothian (given the May 2015 results), they have a chance to pick up one or two seats. There is also a significant chance of gaining a Lothian list seat after the sad passing of Margo McDonald, who held it as an Independent.  Realistically though, given current polling, sadly the most likely scenario is a small further loss. I would say the Scottish Lib Dems are most likely to return somewhere from 3-6 MSPs.


In Wales the Lib Dems face the same problem as in Scotland but with a different face. Labour, weighed down by a Welsh government that performing poorly on the NHS and Education, will probably still top the poll but lose ground, as they did in 2015. UKIP and the Welsh Tories are on the rise though. Particularly, the last Welsh elections pre-date the UKIP surge and they gave a strong performance in Wales in 2015, driving Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems into 4th and 5th place on votes. This surge has yet to show any signs of faltering in opinion polls despite UKIP nationally being in a rut. A poll from late June put them on 14%, very close to their May result and three times what they polled in 2011. If UKIP can maintain support at these levels through to next May they will gain 8-ish seats on the Lists.

This is a huge threat to the Lib Dems due to the effective electoral threshold that operates in a 4 seat region. Welsh Assembly Lib Dems were remarkably unaffected in 2011, losing only 1 seat out of 6. This was due to hanging on to the bottom list seat in each of four Welsh regions. If the Conservatives, Labour and Plaid Cymru broadly maintain their vote share, and UKIP dramatically increase theirs, as suggested by opinion polls, then they may replace the Lib Dems in each region on the bottom seat of those lists. This is what happened to the Lib Dems in the European elections last year. Their vote share halved but they lost 90% of their seats because instead of taking the bottom seat in each region they were squeezed our of almost every region except the very largest. 

Nor is there much better news from the constituencies. Opinion polls put the Lib Dems on about their 2011 vote. Given the 2015 result there seems little chance of reclaiming the constituency in Montgomeryshire, though the closeness of the Cardiff Central result in 2011 does gives some hope there. This somewhat gloomy prognosis is supported by academic models from Cardiff University that are predicting the Lib Dems losing most of their List seats.

The same logic raises worries even about the survival of Kirsty Williams in Brecon. In 2011 after the loss of the Montgomeryshire Westminster seat the Assembly seat was also lost on a big swing to the Tories. The Brecon and Radnorshire Westminster seat was one of the surprise losses in May and the Tories will be fighting hard to take the Assembly seat as well. Kirsty Williams does still have a 10% majority though, even after seeing it halved in 2011, and a relatively high profile as Welsh Lib Dem leader. I believe the odds are good that she will survive but there is certainly a risk.
Unfortunately unless the Lib Dems can retake 4th place from UKIP the most likely result has to be small further losses. Overall in Wales, similarly to Scotland, the most likely result must be to return somewhere between 2-5 AMs.

Credit and Thanks to  for the Image.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Vote Conservative Tomorrow for Europe

Tomorrow, Thuesday 22nd May, we have the 5-yearly European Elections. 

You should vote Conservative for our MEP's.

 The European Parliament is an important body that has major influence over the large proportion of our laws that originate in Europe. We need MEP's who will fight for the best deal for Britain and the best policies for the European Union as a whole.

 European Unity is a noble ideal and the European Union itself does have benefits but as it currently exists it is a deeply flawed organisation. It is too undemocratic, too bureaucratic, too distant from the people and too resistant to change. To give just some examples of culpable EU stupidity:

 1. The Common Agricultural Policy, the largest item of EU spending, tens of billions of pounds every year that is still biased towards supporting inefficient farming methods and harming 3rd world producers, rather than research in efficient farming methods and vital R&D of renewable energy and other important technologies.
 2. Due to a decades old agreement the EU parliament moves every month from Brussels to Strasbourg. This totally pointless activity costs over £100 million a year and produces many tons of totally unnecessary carbon.
 3. The Euro: sceptics warned 15 years ago that any system that used the same currency and interest rate in Athens and Berlin would lead to disaster unless the weaker economies became fundamentally more competetive first. The sceptics were 100% right,the EU cheerleaders like Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems allowed their political bias to blind them and now the people of Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Portugal are paying the price.
4. Even after the Euro crisis broke out further incompetence caused an entirely unnecessary recession in 2012 because the rich countries refused to sacrifice to help the poorer ones and the European Central Bank was negligently slow to act to stop the crisis.

 I could go on.

 The EU is also not democratically accountable enough. Unelected commissioners and the anonymous civil service wield large amounts of power too far away from any scrutiny or visibility from the people of Europe. If you dislike the unelected nature of the Monarchy or tthe House of Lords then the unelected power of the EU is far worse. This causes the kind of complacency and arrogance that leads to the mistakes like those I mentioned above.

 The EU is also constantly trying to attract more power to itself. It is natural tendency for every person to think they know best, and for every political body to think it should have more power to decide things. And this applies to the EU as well. But Brussels is for many things the worst body to be in charge because it so much more distant from voters than local councils or their national governments. Of course some decisions are best made on the EU level. But the logic of european institutions is explicitly that of 'ever closer union' and without a counterbalancing force that can only lead to power and decisions being accumulated in Brussels that have no business being there.

 The Conservatives understand all this.

They acknowledge the usefulness of the EU in some cases, and the fundamental nobility of its driving vision of european peace and co-operation, but they realise that it needs deep and significant reform, so it supports economic efficiency, political and cultural diversity and doesn't accumulate powers and take decisions that could be better taken closer to the people they effect, by national states or local councils.

 The Conservatives take a sensible middle-ground between mindless cheer-leading of Brussels and mindless fear and hostility: Sensible, intelligent, experienced, hard-working representatives who support EU measures when they benefit British and other european citizens, but who fight against complacency and for significant reform so the EU offers better value for money, fulfils its potential in terms of benefits, and who fight for greater democracy in the EU and decisions taken closer to the people. The Conservatives also recognise the deep public doubt about the EU and promise a referendum on our membership so ultimately the public can decide, 40 years after anyone in Britain last had a chance to vote on our membership of the EU, as is right in a democracy.

 But this will not be decided by our MEP's, but in parliament. Our MEP's have no say on whether there is a referendum.

 The other parties simply don't offer this.

 1.The Lib Dems are too instinctively pro-EU to properly scrutinise or reform the system. They can barely help but cheer-lead most Brussels measures regardless of content. Until 2010 Lib Dems in the European Parliament and in the House of Commons were still waxing lyrical about the wonders of the Euro and how Britain should join, just as they were 15 years ago. That would have been a disaster for Britain and the same blindness affects their decisions in the european parliament all the time.

 2.Labour have never met a government regulation, or piece of bureaucracy, or governmental power-grab, or tax-hike they didn't like. All the instincts of the modern labour party are in favour of ever-more interference and bureaucracy by 'experts' and against moving power closer to the people. They won't reform the system to make it more streamlined, efficient with money or democratic because they fundamentally don't really believe in any of those things. One only has to look at the Blair and Brown governments to know that is true.

 3. The Greens make good noises about reform but their plans are too often misguided at best and delusional at worst. Their stance is excellent on environmental issues but the EU parliament must consider many other areas and on these their ideas are generally economically illiterate and reflexively statist. To give an example, their manifesto in 2010 supported raising taxes by £170 billion a year, in other words increasing all taxes by a quarter, something that would have devastated the economy and hit all families, including poorer families with a massive tax increase.

 4. UKIP have an irrational hatred of the EU that is out of all proportion to its actual problems. They want to isolate Britain from the world, reject valuable european-wide co-operation on many issues. Even when elected their representatives have the worst record for actually turning up and fighting for Britain. And when they do they vote down every single measure, regardless of benefits to Britain out of spite just because it comes from Brussels. Nigel Farage apparently even dislikes eurovision. The party is also stuffed at the highest levels with rape apologists, racists and homophobes. A party that tells us we should be afraid of people because they are foreign has no place in Britain, and certainly not representing us for the next 5 years.

So vote Conservative tomorrow, Thursday 22nd May 2014, to give our country the best possible MEP's fighting for a better EU for Britain and everyone in Europe.

Saturday 16 April 2011

I don't care whether you're for YES or NO. For God's sake please actually go out and vote in the AV referendum on May 5th!

We are now rapidly approaching the 5th May and the long awaited referendum on whether for elections to parliament we should switch from First-past-the-post (FPTP) to the Alternative Vote (AV).  I would like to say that national conversation has been buzzing with the excitement of quite possibly our biggest constitutional change for a century.  I would like to say that campaign has been dominated by thoughtful and accurate but accessible explanations of the different mechanics and likely effects of switching to AV or not. But, that would be an utter lie!

Sadly, the truth is that the AV campaign has so far almost entirely passed the public by. Without the scale and widespread organisation of the main political parties the campaign has just not had the bulk necessary to seriously enter the national consciousness or disturb the thoughts of most of the population.  The Yes2AV and No2AV campaigns have been chipper and enthusiastic but thus far largely ineffective.  With disaster in Japan, War in Libya, Politics at Home, Local and sub-national elections their message has been largely crowded out.

On the other hand this is quite possibly a good thing as the AV campaign has been almost certainly the worst political campaign I have ever seen.  Both sides have barely even tried to wade into the complexity of explaining the somewhat technical differences between FPTP and the proposed AV system. Instead preferring to throw a vast wave of heavily emotive sheer rubbish at the electorate in the hope some of its sticks.  It has been truly awful, with a particular low point from the No side with their Vote No or the Baby gets it line of argument only just beating the Yes campaign's repeated massive non-sequiturs that AV will make politics fairer, MP's work harder, expenses lower and is apparently a more 'modern' system, all without explaining precisely how or why these miracles will occur; not to mention end safe seats (no it won't), make every MP have the support of 50% of his constituents (no it won't), end tactical voting (no it won't) and make election results more proportional (actually in direct contradiction to ending safe seats).  Not to mention simultaneously claiming that it will harm the BNP and also help smaller parties (connect the dots between those two if you can). Both sides have also managed to scrape the barrel when it comes to chasing celebrity endorsement rather than discussing to issues and more widely planning the man rather than the ball.

The campaign over AV has been even worse in quality than our last general election, which was itself a new low. In case you have forgotten that campaign was largely occupied by an argument over making £6 billion of cuts between two parties who were planning to cut £80 billion and £50 billion respectively, shortly followed by an unbelievably silly and impressively short lived personality cult based on one semi-decent TV performance that then fizzled out even before election day two weeks later.  It was pretty grim, but it has been surpassed in sheer balloon-faced stupidity by this AV campaign (from both sides).

It gets worse though.  Largely due to the bizarrely low profile of the AV campaign itself, and also, I think, due to the crass, irrelevant negativity of the two campaigns, there is a record low engagement with this important constitutional change.  At this stage in the campaign Yes and No are roughly equal in the polls, leading to the possibility we could see major constitutional change with the support of perhaps 12% of the electorate.  I call that pretty grim.  Lest you think I am exaggerating let me explain myself.

Turnout in general elections is about 2/3.  Turn-out in devolved, local and European elections is commonly about 35%.  I have seen nothing to convince me this referendum has a higher profile than the concurrent local and devolved elections. And see every reason to believe it will be lower.  People are used to local elections, they are somewhat aware of them as they come along with reasonable regularity.  They are also spurred by the high-profile of party politics.  The AV, as a non-party political one-off, has none of these benefits.  I was recently shocked to discover the people in my office between them knew almost nothing about AV and cared almost less.  These are highly educated people working in one of the UK's top universities.  I would put them in easily the top 20% of the country for expected general political awareness and engagement, and they were barely aware a referendum was even happening.  In places where there are local/devolved elections I expect turnout to be slightly lower than for those, where there are no local elections I expect turnout to be even worse.  All in all this means we can expect a turnout somewhere between 20-30%. On the higher end of that if we're lucky, the lower if we're not.  Combine that with an expectation that the result will be close, and we have AV defeated or accepted with roughly 11-16% of the electorate.

This is dire, you have to go back to the mid-19th Century to find a time when such a small percent of the population got to decide the direction of our constitution. Though, embarrassingly, this time the problem is due to apathy rather than legal restriction. It will be a terrible shame if such serious an issue that so affects us all were decided by a thin majority on a tiny turnout. Something that would quite possibly lead to a crisis of legitimacy for the new or retained system, stuck without any real democratic mandate.  It will certainly leave a legacy of bad feeling and mistrust about such change.   It is in all our best interest, whether win or lose, for as many people to be involved in this crucial democratic decision as possible.  

This is the reason for the headline of this article.  It doesn't matter whether you are for AV or against it.  Please, please go out and vote on May 5th!  If you don't have an opinion then get one. If you know nothing about the issue then please take a small amount of time to get yourself at least reasonably informed.  Whatever the case MAKE SURE YOU GET OUT AND VOTE!!!

Saturday 15 May 2010

UK General Election 2010 - The Results.

Well, after hours of voting, weeks of campaigning, months of preparation and years of looking forward we've finally had the General Election. It was an incredibly mixed night, with all sorts of strange results. So lets see what happened:

MP's Share of Vote No of Votes
Conservatives: 307 (+97) 36.2% (+3.8) 10.7 million (+2 million)
Labour 258 (-91) 29% (-6.2) 8.6 million (- 0.9 million)
LibDem: 57 (-5) 23% (+1) 6.8 million (+0.9 million)
Others: 28 (-1) 11.8% (+1.4) 3.5 million (+0.6 million)

5% swing to the Conservatives.

GB Figures: Con 37, Lab 30, Lib Dem 24, Others 10. Pardon the rounding errors.
Final Opinion Poll Figures: Con 36, Lab 29, Lib Dem 26, Others 9.


MP's: 306 (+97) Vote Share: 36.2 (+3.9%) Vote No: 10.7 million (+2 million)

Without a doubt, the Conservatives won the election. They got 2.1 million more votes than the next largest party and 49 MP's. They achieved a 4% increase in their share of the vote and 2 million more votes than in 2005. They achieved their largest increase in MP's since 1931 and came decisively top in an election for the first time since 1992. However, their victory was not complete.

The big story of the night is that at the end of the day the Conservatives did not manage to achieve the majority that would allow them to govern safely on their own. They were close, considerably closer than anyone could have predicted from opinion polls a week ago, but they were still 16 off an effective majority. Considering the electoral mountain that the Conservatives had to climb, they still made massive progress,achieving swings as high as 10% in many Labour seats, even some they eventually failed to take. Their progress was deeply un-even,however.

In England they triumphed, achieving 40% of the vote and taking 298 out of 533 seats: A considerable majority of English seats. In England and Wales they achieved a swing of 5.6% from labour, including in areas deeply hostile to them, gaining a 6.8% swing in the North East,though it did them little good in seats. They also managed to almost entirely hold off the Lib Dems across the South and London, despite all the hysteria around Nick Clegg pre-election, achieving swings against the LibDems in both southern regions and taking several seats from them.

This solid progress in England and Wales contrasts sharply with a complete lack of progress in the rest of the UK. In Scotland they made zero progress, their share of the vote was up 0.9% and they didn't get a single seat, leaving them with a desperate 1 seat across all Scotland. In fact, incredibly, in an election where 20% of seats changed hands in England and Wales not a single seat changed hands in scotland. In NI there was dissapointment as well as their allies (since 2007), the Ulster Unionists, fighting under the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists (UCU)banner, failed to gain a single seat, and lost the only seat they held in 2005 to the Independent incumbent.

Looking at the information closely, the swing figures mask the fact that the Conservatives widely gained around 40% of the share of vote lost by Labour over most of the country, apart from Scotland, a figure that itself masks the deeply uneven Conservative progress. In seats that they took the Conservatives regularly hoovered up 80, 90, even over 100% of the lost labour share, giving a significant number of impresssive 8-11% swings, however, in many other seats they made little progress at all, with the BNP hoovering up as much of labour's lost vote in some areas of the North, with the swing figures coming largely from Labour's lost share, rather than any actual transfer to the Conservatives. One thing they will be pleased with, however, is the fact that in seats they already held the Conservatives still achieved considerable swings,
meaning that a lot of these seats are now impressively safe. In fact, the Conservatives now have 125 seats with over 50% of the vote, though, on the other hand, their vote actually fell in 75 seats.

However, this should not detract from the scale of the Conservative achievement. They gained more than a million more votes than Blair in 2005, while Labour acheived 900,000 fewer than Michael Howard did, and if it was not for the skew in the system due to Labour constituencies being, on average, considerably smaller than Conservative ones, they would hold a majority today.


MP's: 258 (-91) Vote Share: 29% (-6.2) Vote No: 8.6 million (-0.9 million)

Labour lost and lost badly. The party suffered a historic defeat, losing 91 MP's, 900,000 votes, suffering a 6.2% drop, a 5% swing to their main rivals, their worse result (in terms of votes) since 1983 and their greatest fall in seats since 1931. It was grim. They finished off 2nd by 49 seats and 2.1 million votes.

It was the weirdest thing in the world, then, to hear Gordon Brown on the radio, around Friday lunchtime, sounding more confident and statesmanlike than I have heard him for a while, magnanimously declaring that the government must go on and that his ministers would be going to x conference to discuss y with z important other national leaders, as though he had just been returned with a healthy mandate. And the reason for this is very simple, because as badly as labour did (and they were creamed everywhere outside scotland and the North) expectations were so low that they did a hell of a lot better than most people expected, getting 2% more of the vote than opinion polls suggested and maintaining a healthy block of MP's, 39.6% of MP's on 29% of the vote, considerably more than the Conservatives got in 2005. Moreover, as the Conservatives failed to gain a majority, he remained Prime Minister until someone else could cobble together a majority.

Whereas in 1997 the Conservatives were not only beaten, but routed across the board, being reduced to a small rural English rump, in 2010, although securing a lower share of the vote even than John Major did in '97, labour were beaten but not routed, holding their ground in their heartlands and maintaining a significant number of MP's. All the party's leaders maintained their seats, sometimes even increasing their majorities, and, the Conservatives failed to gain their own parliamentary majority, putting them in a relatively weak position. Labour were lucky. Whereas the Conservative's '97 defeat was compounded by serious tactical voting, in 2010 there was almost no tactical voting against them, with the LibDems particularly failing to gain several seats they should have easily taken. Labour also managed to hold off Respect on their left, the SNP in Scotland, and avoid losing too many votes to Lib Dems or Greens, their opponents on the soft-left.

Labour's electoral strategy was, to the degree it was ever going to be, successful. Although their national figurehead campaign was a disaster, to an extent where even his enemies could not fail to feel sorry for Gordon Brown, their local campaigns were effective and professional. They ran a deeply negative attack campaign, hammering away at their one message, the Conservatives would engage in savage cuts, whereas labour could be trusted to protect public services. This approach combined two important pieces of deception, first just lying about what the Conservatives had said they would cut, especially in terms of benefits for the elderly, something Gordon Brown was called up on in the 3rd leadership debate, but generally Labour managed to widely engage in under the media radar, and, secondly, completely ignoring the fact that Labour themselves had committed to cuts, only slightly smaller than the Conservative's, after the election. Nonetheless this approach was mostly successful, uniting the left behind Labour, instead of seeing it fracturing to SNP, LibDems, Respect, Greens etc. and allowing Labour to avoid electoral meltdown.

Obviously, like the Conservatives, Labour's result varied greatly across the country, with almost the opposite picture to the Conservatives. In Scotland they held totally still, actually slightly increasing their share of the vote on 2005, and this success is the core of labour's relative survival in the whole election. Across England and Wales they suffered a 5.6% swing. In NI their allies the SDLP did well, holding their 3 seats.

Even in England and Wales, the result varies across the Country. The swing was surprisingly uniform, but still this means Labour continues to dominate the North, especially the NE, and is well ahead in Wales. They are also slightly ahead in Yorkshire and London and well behind in the East and West Midlands.

In the South of England, outside London, they are, however, in a terrible condition, as bad in percentage term as the Conservatives in Scotland but in a way in a far worse state as it is across a much larger area. Labour got about 17% of the vote across the South East, South West and Eastern regions of England, an area of some 18 million people, compared to 5 million in Scotland, the Conservative desert. They also painfully gained only 10/196 seats in these regions. As one Labour commentator mentioned after the election, there is now effectively a doughnut of complete Labour vacuum, around Inner London and before you reach the Labour strongholds further north. The thing he did not mention, however, is that this is a doughnut of some 220 seats, as another commentator said, some doughnut.

Liberal Democrats.

MP's: 57(-5) Vote Share: 23% (+1) Vote No: 6.8 million (+0.9 million)

If the big story of the night, in terms of immediate political importance, was the Conservative failure to gain a majority then the biggest surprise and biggest under-acheievement of expectation was still the almost complete collapse of the Lib Dem's sudden bubble of support. Without a doubt the big story of the campaign was Cleggomania, the sudden apparent outpouring of enthusiasm for the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg personally that followed the first ever UK prime ministerial TV debate. Taking the opinion polls going into the final night, the Conservative party was ahead but it was then a toss-up as to whether Labour or the Lib Dems came 2nd in share of the vote for the first time since 1918. There were widespread predictions for the Lib Dems to achieve a increase of 20 or 30 or 40 seats on their 2005 total.

The first sign that something had gone horribly wrong, was the exit poll, released at 10pm, that placed the Lib Dems on only 59 MP's, down 4 from the previous election. This was an ominous sign, but was widely disbelieved when it emerged. However, as it went into the early hours of the morning it became horrible apparent that it was all too true, as the Lib Dems failed to gain seats they should have walked through, and even lost seats they could have easily held onto. I can only imagine the sheer horror they must have felt at Lib Dem HQ as they saw the results come in and realised that it was all too true.

When the dust had finished settling the next morning the Lib Dems had managed to do even worse than the exit poll, itself seemingly incredible only 12 hours before, had suggested, finishing with 57 MP's. It was not merely a terrible quirk of FPTP either. The opinion polls that had only 36 hours before predicted a Lib Dem vote of 26% had proved wrong, with the Lib Dems ending up with only 23% of the vote, only 1% up on 2005 and 6% behind the Labour Party they had seemed so close to overtaking. The sense of a missed opportunity looms even more darkly in looking down the list of Lib Dem target seats, those seats that required the smallest swing to the Lib Dems to gain. Whereas the Conservative target list, 116 long, now has a healthy block of blue, the Lib Dem targets have been barely touched. Labour seats that required only a tiny swing to go remain red, after, in some cases the Lib Dem and Labour vote fell equally with it shifting straight to the Conservatives, though not enough to give them the seat, leaving labour in precarious first place.

This should not be taken to say that the result was entirely bad for the Lib Dems. Despite their poor result they did finally secure their main hope for the last 20 years, holding the balance of power in a hung parliament, one hell of a consolation prize. They will now almost certainly form an integral part of the next UK government, albeit either in coalition with, or through supporting, a much larger party. They also achieved their highest share and number of votes since 1987 and (apart from 2005) won the most seats since 1929. This is a more marked achievement when you realise that their 2005 share was considerably buoyed by protest over the Iraq war, to retain and actually increase on those votes was an achievement, and, if it were not for the bubble following the 1st debate it would be said that they did very well, compared to
how they were doing in polls pre-debates.

The Lib Dems fell back moderately in Scotland, though maintaining their tally of seats. They achieved a small swing against Labour across most of England, but, their small loss largely resulted from a moderate swing against them to the Conservatives across the South of England, where they now constitute the 2nd largest party behind the Conservative party, and especially in their traditional heartland of the South-West. Interestingly, they also achieved a sizeable increase in their tally of seats where they are either in 1st or 2nd place, i.e. seats where they are one of the two main parties in the running, a crucial position under FPTP. This figure rose from 250 to 299, suggesting a continued divergence of the country away from a straight Labour, Conservative battle and an improving Lib Dem position below the surface, so to speak.


MP's: 28 (-1) Vote Share: 11.8% (+1.4) Vote No: 3.5 million (+0.6 million)

The Other parties had an incredibly mixed general election, with some notable successes and notable failures, but no overwhelmingly positive or negative picture anywhere. In a number of cases a party either did well in votes but poorly in seats, or did well in seats but poorly in votes regardless. Following the 2009 European Election and the Expenses scandal there was a great deal of speculation that voters would abandon the major parties in considerable numbers and flock to the minor parties. This was one of the great debates of the opinion polling leading up to the election, with one block of polling companies forecasting votes of up to 18% and another block forecasting around 10%. The end result was 11.8%, so considerably closer to the figure suggested by the sceptics.

Moreover, the number of seats held by Others fell slightly. This is firstly because this category includes all NI seats, as neither Conservatives, Labour of Lib Dems are major players there, and so the figure takes no account of the changes there. In Scotland the SNP failed to take any seats, as previously said, Scotland was weirdly static at this general election, though their vote did increase modestly, at the expense of the Lib Dems. In Wales, Plaid Cymru managed to gain an extra seat from Labour, (increasing their representation by 50%) though their share of the vote fell slightly, though not doing as well as they'd hoped (they'd been after another seat). In England, both Independent MP's lost their seats, with those seats returning to what could be considered their natural homes, One Welsh independent labour rebel lost to Labour, one Kidderminster hospital concern lost to the Conservatives. Respect, the other minor party in the 2005 parliament also lost its seat in Bethnal Green and Bow. The party suffered badly at the election taking none of the three seats they had been in a good position to take from Labour, and losing its only representation.

The three major 'minor' parties in England had varyings nights at the polls. The big achievement of the night was the triumph of Caroline Lucas, Green party leader, in Brighton Pavilion, who squeaked home to become the UK's first ever Green Party MP. This was a real triumph for her personally and for the Greens. However, it masked a disappointing result nationwide, with the Green's over-all vote barely moving on 2005, in an election where it would be thought that their hard left-wing, environmentalist, populist line would be widely popular. The contrast is striking with the other two main 'minor' parties. The BNP failed miserably in their attempt to gain parliamentary seats, with Nick Griffin losing votes in Barking, as Labour's Margaret Hodge actually increased her vote after a successful anti-BNP campaign. Nationwide, however, in terms of votes, there was a very different story, with the BNP nearly tripling their vote, scoring 563,000 (up from 192,000 in 2005). There was a similar story for UKIP, arguably the UK's 4th largest party. Their flagship attempt to gain a seat failed, with Nigel Farage failing to unseat the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, and embarrassingly even coming 3rd in that seat to an explicitly Pro-EU Lib-Dem leaning candidate, little more than 24 hours after almost getting himself killed in an air-crash during some last minute polling day campaigning. Again, nationwide, and in terms of votes, UKIP triumphed, increasing their vote by 50% and scoring 917,000 votes, more than any minor party has ever done before and, for reference, well over triple the Green vote. It is, also, interesting to note that although UKIP are stronger the further south and west you go and the BNP stronger the further north and east you go (in England), their combined vote is actually quite similar across the country, uniformly polling 5-7% in every region and getting 6% over-all in England, and with the English Democrats (the other right-wing minor party) the ED/UKIP/BNP gained 1.5 million votes (up from 800,000 in '05).

In NI there was one dramatic switch of the election, with DUP leader and NI first minister Peter Robinson dramatically losing his seat to the Alliance, a small Lib-Dem aligned, non-sectarian party that has never before achieved Westminster representation. Apart from this though it was no-change, with Sinn Fein, SDLP and the DUP holding all their other seats. Sinn Fein did manage to achieve the closest win of the whole election, holding onto one seat by an, eye-wateringly close, 4 votes. As previously said the Conservative aligned UUP, running as Ulster Conservatives and Unionists (UCU) failed to make any breakthroughs. The TUV (traditional unionist voice) party, a hardline splinter from the DUP, that some had expected to cause the DUP serious trouble failed as well, getting a puny 4% of the NI vote.

Outside these parties, it was a good election for independents in some ways, with many gaining respectable shares of the vote, and standing in record numbers, and bad in other ways, as both the only two independent held seats fell, and most of the respectable independent totals were gained by former, disgruntled Labour or Conservative ex-MP's or hopeful candidates, who failed to gain their preferred party's nomination, generally either due to party discipline problems or intra-party ideological disputes.

The Hard Left did particularly badly at this election, despite hopes that it would be able to capitalise from Labour unpopularity, despite the hard-left in England and Wales coming together in the form of an electoral coalition. Both the Scottish Socialists and the TUSC (trade union and socialist coalition) polled badly, the TUSC getting a pitiful 0.04% of the vote in England. Respect also did badly, losing its only MP, as, as said before, Labour were surprisingly successful in consolidating the left-wing vote across the UK. The hard-left did especially badly compared to the 320,000 votes NO2EU and Socialist Laboiur managed only a year before in the European Elections.

Two other parties that did badly by this same metric were the Christian party and English democrats, who between them polled 530,000 votes in the European elections but at this election only managed some 82 thousand. This is to be compared to the BNP who gained 930,000 in the European Elections and then 540,000 votes this year.