Reflections on the non-revolution in Britain

In no particular order…

  • The BBC exit poll, which predicted that the Tories would get 316 seats — and which I did not believe, was closer to the mark than I thought. As the results trickled in, however, it was interesting to see that while the two big parties attracted roughly the same percentage of the vote, the numbers of seats accruing from that were sharply divergent. That’s the FPTP (first past the post) system for you.

  • The opinion polls got it wrong. Period. I wonder if that’s because they are intrinsically too bound up with share of the vote (which they got right) and not with seats. They must surely adjust for the non-linearities of FPTP? Mustn’t they?

  • My first thought when I woke at 5.50am this morning and saw how it was going was that it will be 1992 all over again. The Tories will, at best, have a tiny majority. They will again tear themselves apart over Europe — as they did in John Major’s wretched administration. Journalists will spend all their time listening to the rabid opinions of obscure Tory backbench xenophobes, etc.

  • Allied to that, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a fall in the value of sterling. After all, markets famously hate uncertainty. The arrival of a Tory minority (or bare-majority) government means that the in-out referendum on Europe will be held. And — as the Irish government knows only too well — referenda can go badly wrong, which in this case would mean a popular vote to leave the EU. And that would lead to a stampede by many big companies to Ireland or elsewhere, because these outfits definitely do want to remain inside the Community.

  • And allied to that, there is also the prospect of a Scottish exit from the UK in the event of a ‘UK’ decision to leave the EC.

  • The Labour party was deservedly destroyed in Scotland. It was a corrupt, complacent, Tammany Hall type operation in most constituencies. And allied to that, it was the party that opposed independence in the Scottish referendum.

  • For Labour generally, it’s a catastrophic result, but not surprising because the party has essentially lost its bearings and it has run out of ideas. Its old industrial base has essentially evaporated. Its trusty, corrupt Scottish base has finally been destroyed. And the boundary revision which the Lib Dems delayed when in the Coalition, will now go ahead, with the result that they will lose their inbuilt majorities in about 20 seats.

  • Britain needs a progressive centre-left political party. (Actually, every liberal democracy needs one.) Tony Blair could have created one on the back of his landslide victory in 1997. he had, after all, begun the job of remodelling the Labour party by jettisoning Clause Four etc. But he didn’t finish the job. Miliband also had an opportunity to re-imagine the party when he decided to break the fundraising link with the trade unions. He could have embarked on a reforming path to use the Net not only for fundraising but also for re-energising the party at grassroots level. But he didn’t. And now he has paid the price.

  • In the you-win-some-you-lose-some category, I’m sorry that Vince Cable lost his seat, but delighted that Ed Balls was also unhorsed.

  • As to what this result really means, two thoughts:

  1. George Osborne will be free to get on with his pet neoliberal project, namely shrinking the state
  2. The most chilling thing I heard this morning was something the Home Secretary (aka Minister of the Interior) said when asked what she would now be able to do that she couldn’t do in Coalition. The first thing she would do, she replied, was to re-introduce the Communications Data Bill (the so-called “snoopers’ charter”) that the Lib Dems had stopped. The National Security State is alive and well and living in Britain.