Mark's Musings

A miscellany of thoughts and opinions from an unimportant small town politician and bit-part web developer

Election musings


Although, as I write, there are still a few council results yet to come in (and nothing yet from Northern Ireland, which I will therefore ignore), the key issues from yesterday are settled and the overall pattern is clear enough. So, who are the winners and losers?

The big winners, obviously, are the No2AV campaign and the SNP. The rejection of AV in the referendum was more decisive than anything predicted by the opinion polls, and represents a complete turnaround from the start of the campaign when ‘Yes’ held a clear lead. There are a number of reasons why this happened, but the key fact seems to have been that the No group made a much better job of addressing undecided voters. The Yes campaign, by contrast, always seemed to be preaching at the choir.

I don’t know a huge amount about Scottish politics, and, as a pure-bred Englishman, I have to say that it doesn’t really concern me much either. But the achievement of the SNP in gaining an overall majority in the Scottish parliament is significant, not just for Scotland but possibly also for the rest of the UK. While I don’t expect that there’s enough support yet for full independence,  if yesterday’s results were to be replicated in the next set of Westminster elections then that would have a potentially major effect on the balance of power.

The Conservatives have also done well, at least by comparison with what was expected. Although also losing out to the SNP in Scotland, the results in England and Wales showed the Tories not just holding on to their previous position but also making modest gains. For a governing party in the first year of a new parliament, that’s a very good result.

Labour’s fortunes have been mixed. The headline results in England look good, with major gains across the country, but this was always likely to happen given the low base from which they started – this isn’t really a fightback, as Ed Milliband had tried to portray it, but more a modest recovery from the disastrous legacy of the last few years of an unpopular Labour government. Results in Wales were genuinely better, with the party only a single vote away from an overall majority in the Welsh Assembly. By comparison, Scotland was an unmitigated disaster zone for Labour. To be sure, the SNP campaigned well, but Labour contrived to lose from what the early polls showed as a winning position. It’s no surprise that Scottish Labour leader  Iain Gray has resigned, but part of the blame surely has to lie at the feet of Ed Milliband who completely misjudged his contribution to the campaign north of the border.

The big losers are the Yes to AV campaign and the Liberal Democrats. From an early lead in the opinion polls, the Yes campaigners slipped to a resounding defeat and, while that’s partly due to the effectiveness of the No campaign, it’s also a reflection of just how badly the Yes campaign was run. An over-reliance on celebrities, the inability of key figures to work together – if John Reid and Ken Clarke can share a platform, then Ed Milliband’s refusal to appear with Nick Clegg looks like nothing more than childish petulance – and publicity aimed at the political chattering classes rather than the ordinary voter all combined to create a remarkably weak campaign. The pro-AV campaign could have won this given better organisation, and those involved will surely be kicking themselves for the mistakes they made.

It was also a very bad day for the LibDems, although for entirely different reasons. The activists, particularly those on the left of the party, are blaming Nick Clegg and the rest of the leadership, but I think they’re completely missing the point. The real problem is that a significant proportion of  LibDem support has always come from protest votes. But when the party you used to protest vote for is now part of the government, voting for them is no longer a protest. Add to that the fact that, unlike Labour and Conservative supporters, many Liberal Democrat voters are unused to the realities of holding power and are, quite simply, too politically naive to accept that being in power requires compromise.  And there’s nothing that the LibDem leadership can do about that, short of giving up any hope of being in power and committing themselves to a permanent presence on the opposition benches.

Other losers include many of the smaller parties, including the BNP and Plaid Cymru. Plaid slipped further away from power in Wales, and must be looking north with a certain degree of jealousy at the success of its nationalist counterparts in Scotland. The BNP lost seats everywhere, including all five of its councillors in Stoke-on-Trent – an area where it had previously considered itself a major player. Overall, independents and smaller parties generally felt the squeeze as voters turned to Labour and the Conservatives.

On the other hand, the Greens had a good day, gaining seats in various locations and cemented their position as the largest party in Brighton. My guess is that they picked up votes from former LibDem supporters who wanted to take their protest vote elsewhere.

The other big winner of the day was me. I was elected to Evesham Town Council, representing the Bengeworth ward. Not only was I elected, but I also topped the poll, which is quite nice – I’d expected to be elected, but had wondered whether it might be a bit too close for comfort. So being officially the most popular candidate in Bengeworth is a pleasing result. My first council meeting is on Monday, at which point I have to sign all the forms and be formally sworn in, so I’m looking forward to taking my place.