Saturday, May 09, 2015

Some thoughts on the election

During this election I was mainly focused on the local West Ham constituency where I was the agent for Festus Akinbusoye, our brilliant local Conservative candidate, and also on the Stratford and New Town by-election, where Matthew Gass ran a strong campaign. Both recieved more votes than any previous candidate I have records for. And that includes me.

Of the national picture I had no clear idea with the polls seemingly all over the place or showing more margin of error than usual but an underlying tiny Conservative lead.

Come the count my priorities were local, especially in the first couple of hours. So when I saw the exit poll showing us as the largest party with an increase in seats I just dismissed it as wildly inaccurate and went off to watch the ballot box openings. As it turned out the poll was inaccurate - but in the other direction.

Politics students up and down the country can now write essays on the question "Who had a worse election result in 2010 - Ed Miliband or Peter Kellner?" The polling industry is clearly going to have to reassess its methodology - the UK is just one of a number of countries ranging from Canada to Israel where polls have spectacularly got it wrong in recent elections.

I will not deny it, getting an overall majority was an expected joy. Seeing particular politicians defeated also brings a cheer, especially Ed Balls. For any Conservative who had to endure Portillo's defeat this was balance.

And Nigel Farage and George Galloway have proved to be great national unifiers. People across the whole political spectrum united in delight at their defeats.

Amongst the smaller parties it was a shock to see the Ulster Unionists return to Westminster. It's even more amazing that the Revd. Willie McCrea lost his seat to a pro gay marriage candidate. Let's hope this is the start of something in Northern Ireland.

The SNP surge in Scotland is one of the biggest shocks and a reminder that there is no such thing as a safe seat when such huge majorities crumbled. It's odd to think that my grandparents' old home in Edinburgh is now in the only Labour seat in Scotland. But Scotland has spoken firmly and cannot be ignored.

And the Lib Dems have had a spectacular crash. There are many mistakes they made, and I may blog on them separately, but one thought spring to mind. It seems that the only people who thought the Lib Dems made a pro Liberal Democrat difference in government were either Lib Dem activists or frustrated Conservatives. Many have pointed to disillusion left-leaning Lib Dem voters deserting the party for Labour, the Greens or the SNP. But equally some right-leaning Lib Dem voters felt that the government was more to their liking than they expected and they didn't think the Lib Dems had much influence. So they concluded that it was down to David Cameron. So Nick Clegg has achieved the detoxification of the Conservative Party.

When David Cameron first became leader he set out to see off the Lib Dem threat. First he tried direct appeals, hoping for mass defections, but it didn't work. Then he tried dismissing and ridiculing them, but it didn't work. Finally he tried bearhugging them. And it crushed them.

We now have five years to complete the rebuilding of the economy and society. We must not shirk the task.

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