Thursday, May 06, 2010
"A pretty stunning result" posted by Richard SeymourNever have I seen superlatives of that magnitude spoken with less conviction. That was George Osborne talking about the results of the exit poll, which showed that a hung parliament was the most likely outcome. (I suspect the poll is wrong, and that the Tories will get a working majority). He said that if the Tories win a total of 305 seats, they will have made record gains for any party in a single election. Yet, we're talking about a party that has at most just over a third of the votes. Osborne, rather than claiming that the Tories will have a clear mandate to govern, instead has to focus on the negative: that the country has rejected Labour and therefore Brown cannot continue to govern. Given that the Tory lead was in double figures for a couple of years until this winter, a hung parliament would be a pretty pathetic result for the Tories, and a sure sign that Labour's strategy of so-called "class war" (the ads all talk about Tory cuts, and Tories being in the pockets of bankers - a cheek, but still...) was successful. If the Tories are able to form a government on the basis of such a vote, it will merely underline just how undemocratic the voting system is. However, the exit poll also suggests that the Lib Dems are about to get royally stuffed, despite having almost as many votes as Labour. Given Labour's determination to maintain its hegemony on the left-of-centre vote, it will therefore have an interest in perpetuating first-past-the-post. Even if it allows the Tories to govern with a poor minority.
Update: So, at the moment, a large number of relatively easy seats for the Tories have stayed with Labour, including Birmingham Edgbaston (pending a recount). I would guess on the basis of this that the Tories won't be able to form a majority government. The Liberal Democrats aren't making any net gains, and I double down on my previous guess that the Lib Dems will be in the low-to-mid twenties - not least after their astonishing loss of Lembit Opik in Montgomeryshire. Chris Huhne is looking pretty miserable, and sounding pretty petulant, about this. Bad news is that all left-of-Labour candidates have been squeezed, with mostly poor results from TUSC and it is rumoured that George Galloway hasn't made it this time. Further bad news is that it looks like Hazel Blears has survived the guillotine on this occasion, just barely. Some scattered good news: People's Voice in Blaneau Gwent got a fifth of the vote (it has been pointed out to me that this is a serious reduction on their 2005 and 2006 performances, from three fifths to one fifth of the vote - not good news at all); Eamonn McCann doubled his vote in Foyle; and the fascists didn't win in Barking.
I see that the Liberal Democrats, despite struggling to increase their share of the votes nationally, are making some surprising encroachments on Labour heartlands. Labour kept Ashfield, Geoff Hoon's old constituency, with a slight majority, despite a strong Lib Dem challenge. But the Liberals have taken Redcar in the north-east, which had a Labour majority of 12k, and they've taken Burnley in the north-west on a 12% swing, erasing a Labour majority of 5k. This is becoming a pattern, in which the Lib Dems increasingly find it easier to fight Labour in old strongholds than to take marginal seats from Tories. Also worth noting that Burnley saw a high BNP vote at 9%, but down by 1.5% on their 2005 result. Another Lib Dem gain at Labour's expense is Charles Clarke's seat in Norwich South.