UK Election 2015 – My Take

On Friday I asked Gippsland Laborite whether he’d be prepared to write a post analysing the UK election – once the horsetrading was done and the result was known. Well, as we all know, there was no need for horsetrading, so GL’s piece arrived much sooner than I had originally anticipated. The academic in me is tempted to include the sort of comment usually put on essays by excellent students. I’ll restrain myself to saying that, given the quality of GL’s comments at The Pub, I am not in the least surprised by the clarity of this piece. Many thanks indeed, Gippsland Laborite, for your debut threadstarter. I look forward to reading much more of your work!

(Image Credit: The Huffington Post)

To the surprise of almost everyone, the Tories won a majority in the UK elections. Given that everyone thought that the result would be neck and neck the first thing that we should look at is, “how the hell did this happen.”

On the surface Labour led by Ed Miliband ran a good campaign, rather than the gaffe-ridden nightmare that the naysayers were saying he would run, that included a number of solid policies such as freezing energy prices, axing the bedroom tax (reduction in housing benefit for people living in council homes who had more bedrooms than people), strengthening the National Health Service (NHS), and making the rich pay their fair share. These policies were shown to be popular with voters. However, Labour also had to contend with not only a relentless Tory scare campaign about a Labour-SNP coalition in which Ed Miliband would either be in Alex Salmond’s pocket, or have his strings pulled by Nicola Sturgeon, and eventually leading to the destruction and ruination of the United Kingdom, but also relentless attacks from the Murdochs and the Rothermeres in the press on Ed Miliband’s policies and on Miliband himself. In the end, despite the polls, the fear about the SNP among English voters, shamelessly stoked by the Tories and their media mates, definitely stole a great deal of oxygen from the Labour campaign.

Results

Conservatives: 36.8%, 331 seats +25
Labour: 30.4%, 232 seats -24
SNP: 4.7%, 56 seats +50
Lib Dems: 7.9%, 8 seats -48
UKIP: 12.6%, 1 seat
Others: 7.6%, 22 seats

The Tories had a good night and no longer have to placate the Lib Dems to stay in office and can do whatever they want.

For Labour the result ranged from a mixed bag to a disaster. The disaster, as everyone knows, happened in Scotland where Labour lost all but one of the seats they held going in to this election. Labour really needs to have a good long think about where it went wrong and how to fix it without resorting to any quick and cheap fixes that will inevitably backfire. Labour also didn’t do as well as they hoped in Wales: while they gained Cardiff Central from the Lib Dems, they failed to gain Cardiff North, one of their top targets from the Tories, and lost the seats of Gower and Vale of Clwyd to the Tories. In England, Labour made a net gain of fifteen seats. However, these were concentrated in London and the North of England and in some areas the party lost seats to the Tories, including the seat held by Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls. In England the Tories’ fear campaign certainly helped them fend off Labour in a number of key marginals, especially in the Midlands where Labour made very little progress in an area they need to win in order to form government.

For the Lib Dems this election was a complete catastrophe. In terms of votes and seats this is their worst result since 1970 and voters decisively punished the party for going into coalition with the Tories. During the Blair years, the Lib Dems positioned themselves as the left wing alternative to Labour that voters angry over the Iraq War and tuition fee rises could flock to. Entering the coalition ensured that these voters would abandon the party en masse. While Nick Clegg held on to his seat a large number of high profile Lib Dems did not, including former leader Charles Kennedy, and Cabinet Ministers, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Ed Davey and Simon Hughes, and the party is facing a return to the wilderness years of the 1950s and 60s unless something dramatic happens.

For the SNP it was undoubtedly a triumph, winning all but three seats in Scotland. However, they will not hold balance of power and I think this poses a problem. The SNP’s campaign was focused on two points: locking the Tories out of Number Ten and giving Scotland the balance of power in a hung parliament through electing a large number of SNP MPs. The first did not happen, and secondly, the party will have to answer this question, what is their block of MPs actually going to achieve given that they don’t have any influence whatsoever?

UKIP got the third highest number of votes of any party and came second in a number of Tory strongholds in the South of England as well as in several Labour strongholds in the North of England and in the South Wales Valleys, even though they only got one MP elected and Nigel Farage failed to get in to the House of Commons. This could potentially be a springboard for even greater results. However, they could hit a brick wall if the Tories start copying their rhetoric and policies (like what happened with One Nation here in Australia).

Finally, despite all the hype, the Green surge fizzed out with the party only winning 3.8% of the vote and only getting one MP in to the House of Commons.

What’s Next for Britain?

Now that there’s a Tory majority, the party will feel no need to placate anyone else and will be able to do whatever it pleases, which will undoubtedly be a disaster for most of the United Kingdom. In addition, there will also be a referendum, most likely in 2017, on the UK’s future in the European Union, which could have the potential to divide the United Kingdom even further than it already is now.

And what of the future of the Union itself? There’s no denying that the Conservatives, through their appeal to English nationalism, have done more than anyone to put the future of the Union at risk but it is too soon to say whether a second Scottish independence referendum is inevitable. Already Cameron and Osborne are making noises about granting full fiscal autonomy to the Parliament in Edinburgh and we’ll need to see how that plays out. In conclusion, we can say that, with the results of this election, several cans of worms have now been opened and what happens next under the Conservatives will affect the United Kingdom for decades to come.

(Image Credit: Image Arcade)

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616 thoughts on “UK Election 2015 – My Take

  1. A couple of things about Shorten’s reply last night.

    Firstly, we actually go to see the whole thing, which is a rarity.

    Next, watching the other lot squirming in their seats trying to pretend it was all just too boring.

    And my favourite was the so called speaker or anyone else couldn’t shut him down. It must have been a huge amount of will power going on with speaker and the idiots to not be able to any thing.

  2. Some very astute comments from Aguirre on the Shorten leadership. Leone makes a good point that some of his past may tell against him, and Dedalus was disappointed with his response to Sales.

    I agree with Aguirre, partly because Labor needs to step back from “…the leader’s disappointing, let’s change him…” model. That is exactly what this second-rate Press Gallery, half of whom are owned by Murdoch, want us to do. Turning it into a horse-race is how they play it instead of thinking about how we are governed.

    Shorten is playing a low-key game of avoiding wedges and not being in-your-face at every turn. I’m not sure how being dull plays out but it worked for Howard and now seems to be working for Andrews in Victoria. I think it’s more important in this low-profile phase that he bring others, especially from the communities, into policy discussion. Labor is never going to win the media battle, even with a government as barking mad and incompetent as this one. So they may is well use this phase for finding other ways of reaching people.

    It worked for Obama in the US and it can here.

  3. Never mention a deficit –

    Thanks to Howard and the MSM, most of the voters now believe ‘deficit bad, surplus good’. It’s rusted into their tiny little brains now and no amount of talking common sense or explaining that a clever government would be borrowing to the hilt right now and investing in mammoth amounts of infrastructure. The voters just don’t understand. Why do you think Abbott and the MSM keep pretending the federal budget is exactly like a household budget?

    I had a lovely win over my ex-OH a while back. He used to be a staunch Labor voter, but since he has moved to a tiny town in the New England electorate and spends most of his time at the pub with only farmers and other retirees for company he has changed. He admitted to voting for Bananaby last election, he said the Labor candidate was a dickhead. Maybe he was, maybe not. I think it was just too much listening to National Party voters.

    Anyway, he was blathering on about government spending being like the motor on your car blowing up and the best thing to do being saving up for a new one rather than borrowing the money to fix it straight away – or something like that. He conveniently ignored the expense of finding alternative transport while you saved up, but maths and finance has never been his strong point. I went at him full bore with a rant about low interest rates making borrowing the best option followed by a lot of stuff about why governments have to borrow and Hockey borrowing an average $1.9 billion a week, more than three times the previous government’s borrowing. I even offered to show him all the emails from the AOFM to prove it. The poor bloke was stunned, mumbled something about ‘You seem to know more about this than I do’ and changed the subject. He was a bit shocked to have his firm beliefs, formed after far too many hours talking to idiots, challenged and proved wrong.

    The point is people who know nothing about anything hear a line on talk-back radio or read a headline in the MSM, don’t bother with the rest of the conversation or the article leap to the wrong conclusion and then set that into the concrete of their brain, where it will stay for ever. Abbott exploits this – it’s his only real talent. All those three word slogans are seized on, become lodged in befuddles brains and then morph into facts which are believed without question. So now we are supposed to believe that a government that has a deficit is a ‘bad’ government while one that achieves a surplus is ‘good’. I could have kicked Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard and Penny Wong for pushing this belief. Pandering to the ignorant is now the only way to govern.

  4. It’s even worse than that, Leone. We’re supposed to believe that a government that gets asked questions about running a deficit is ‘bad’, while another one that talks about paying off the debt while doing nothing of the sort is ‘good’. One’s ‘on the defensive’ while the other ‘has a plan’.

    And thus the media direct our opinions based on nothing but hot air.

  5. GD
    You’ve given a very astute reading of the Canberra Press Gallery mindset. There is only ever one real story: leadership rumblings. Yes, they see it as a simple horse race. No nuance or insight into public policy argument.
    Shorten is attempting to take advantage of the publics distaste of internals. Last nights speech beats a thousand zingers, any day. He simply needs to act as a “sensible centre” alternate Prime Minister. If he succeeds then Australians will never again be tempted back to Abbott.

  6. More budget problems – if Hockey had not cut the funding for state concessions to pension card holders last year he would not be facing this fallout now.

    States contradict Joe Hockey pledge on concessions for former part-pensioners

    Joe Hockey’s budget speech promised that 91,000 retirees losing their part-pension would continue to receive state-government provided pensioner concession cards – but some states say that will not be the case and they were not consulted about the promise

    http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/may/15/states-contradict-joe-hockey-pledge-on-concessions-for-former-part-pensioners?CMP=ema_632

  7. Jason,

    I don’t have any time for Bananaby, but I think he’s right on this issue even though I also think he’s making a bigger fuss than is necessary because the whole thing is a failure of a system where coalition ‘cuts’ are the root cause. As usual, the media are making hay while the sun shines on the issue.

    People coming to this country in their private jets need to learn that their celebrity status is no excuse to break our law. I feel sorry for the little dogs but I would be very surprised if they are euthanaised because of their owner’s stupidity and overblown sense of his own importance. If push does come to shove, I think the dogs will undergo a period of ‘detention’ before they are reunited with their owner who will have learned an important lesson.

  8. Johnny Depp is lucky he did not get the full penalty for breaking our quarantine laws – ten years as a guest of Her Majesty.

    QUARANTINE ACT 1908 – SECT 67 (1)
    Basic illegal importation offence

    (1) A person is guilty of an offence against this subsection if:

    (a) the person imports, introduces, or brings into any port or other place in Australia, the Cocos Islands or Christmas Island any thing; and

    (b) the person knows that the thing is:

    (i) a disease or pest; or

    (ii) a substance or article containing a disease or pest; or

    (iii) an animal, plant or other goods; and

    (c) the importation, introduction or bringing in of the thing is in contravention of this Act.

    Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 10 years
    http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/qa1908131/s67.html

    Kyle Sandilands is an attention whore, the less we hear of and about him the better. Bananaby, also an attention whore, was trying – and succeeding – to draw attention away from negative comment on the budget and from the passage of the Draconian Border Force legislation through the senate.

    Attention whore
    Label given to any person who craves attention to such an extent that they will do anything to receive it. The type of attention (negative or positive) does not matter.
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=attention+whore

  9. foreverjanice

    I agree the law was broken with the dogs, but this hairy chested response not only on this issue but everything this government says and does is wearing a bit thin. It has me wondering what else is being “smuggled” into the country on private jets? and why isn’t customs and quarantine there to meet the plane? The amount of rubbish I have to go through these days with my knee replacement at airports is a joke, yet out tough on border protection and saviour from death cult government failed to detect two dogs.

  10. I can vouch for some of the comment about ACU here, so the idea they might take on the Lomborg thing seems likely .

    Consensus at ACU? The new location for the Australian Consensus Centre is yet to be announced, leading academics across the country to wonder if their university’s administration is considering taking $4 million from the government for the project. One tipster has told us that Australian Catholic University is tipped to be the next home for Bjorn Lomborg’s “Australian Consensus”, as it was written in the budget papers. According to our tipster, the centre would suit ACU because, “They are currently in the midst of staffing restructure. Most of the current staff are being made Teaching-only in either a effort to save on staffing costs or to manage them out (or both). The aim of this is to attract higher profile researchers who can bring in the bucks — grants and setting up Research Centres are where the money is in Higher Ed. Lomborg would fit perfectly into this profile

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2015/05/15/tips-and-rumours-1369/

    No 2 son – a clinical psychologist – works there but not for much longer. He was taken on with a promise the uni would fund his research as well as employing him as a lecturer. The research, and the uni’s initial enthusiasm for his topic was the attraction that lured him in. They have gone back on that promise and he is now relegated to teaching only, with the excuse they cannot afford to fund any research. Obviously he is not ‘high profile’ enough. He will be leaving as soon as he gets his own fledgling practice up and running full time, if not before. He has also decided the academic life is not for him, although a year ago it was his preference. He wanted a part-time practice and some lecturing/research at a university. He though he had that ideal mix, for a while. Not any more. Cuts to government funding for research don’t just affect scientists who work in laboratories.

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