“A Labour, a LibDem, and a Tory MP walked into a bar. Oh, said the bartender, I must be in Scotland.”
I stayed up til 7am hoping to hear Thanet South declare – the only Tory victory of the campaign that I’m delighted with.
Four party leaders will likely be gone by Monday: Jim Murphy lost his seat and will have to resign, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband look likely to go, and Nigel Farage already quit. (Update: Ed Miliband resigned as I was posting this blog: Harriet Harman, as deputy leader, is caretaker until the next leader is elected.) (Second update: and Nick Clegg’s also resigned.)
It’s not funny. This is a horrific result. And it’s Labour who lost it. This is a re-run of 1992 – and in 1997 the New Labour won a majority and gave us Tony Blair and the Iraq war. Who will “reform” Labour after Ed Miliband?
Even now not quite all the results are in. But enough to be able to see the picture for the next five years. Six constituencies yet to declare.
The Conservatives now have 326 MPs. They have a working majority in the Commons. The polling results were wrong. The “shy Tories” are back – the voters who know how shameful their desire to vote Tory is, who know they should care about the people suffering more poverty, more food banks, the deaths via sanctions, but they want to vote for the Tories anyway because they think the Tories have done good for them personally or they’ve been frightened off Labour with hellstories of what Labour would do to them. (Analysis about “Is there a shy Tory factor in 2015?” at Number Cruncher Politics.)
So, Iain Duncan Smith will get to continue with his sanctions and bullying and lies at the Department of Work and Pensions. George Osborne will get to make his twelve billion cuts to welfare. David Cameron will announce a referendum on EU membership. There will be no taxing the rich, no ending the non-dom tax loophole, Rupert Murdoch will continue to own swathes of UK media, and people will die of hunger and neglect: because that’s what the Tories do. We have no hope of ousting them until May 2020, and perhaps not even then.
And Lord Ashcroft now knows that spending ten thousand pounds per constituency on polling doesn’t provide him with accurate information about who’ll win: though, if he’s decided to be a non-dom again, he may not care providing it’s the Tories.
And David Mundell, still Scotland’s only Tory MP, may now be looking at a rather lonely job as Secretary of State at the Scotland Office.
The Labour Party
Paul Wheeler wrote presciently in March 2015 of the Labour Party’s selection process that overwhelmingly favours those candidates who are “professional, university educated and well connected in political and parliamentary circles” – that those who are merely locally connected and work hard but don’t have the contacts tend to be found “not quite good enough”:
I am sure that candidates like Ernie Bevin, Bessie Braddock and Herbert Morrison would also struggle in the modern Labour Party. Let’s hope in future elections working class voters don’t take the same view about actually voting for us.
Paul Wheeler was hopeful that sheer anger at the coalition would push the Labour candidates through. Labour needed to gain seats in England from the Tories and LibDems to win. The people who have suffered worst from the coalition, the angry political campaigners against the benefit cuts, against welfare reform, the people who knew in their heart and guts and minds why the Tories must not win – where were they in Labour’s selection process?
Labour tended to choose candidates with Westminster connections to fight the marginal seats they needed to gain. And they lost.
The phenomenon of former Westminster workers becoming politicians is not new but appears to be flourishing the most within Labour, according to Dr Peter Allen, a lecturer at Bath University, who has studied the background of parliamentary candidates. “This is what has happened with Labour over the last 20 to 30 years,” he said. “They increasingly seem to be picking people who have been political workers. It’s partly that they used to get a lot more people from trade unions – who brought in traditional working-class occupations such as miners. The Tories are not as bad for this but they tend to take their candidates from business or the law and their supporters do not seem to be so bothered by the backgrounds. It is more a Labour problem.”
Insulated from effects of the Tory “reforms”, Labour representatives spoke pleasantly about how they would continue them, if in a kinder, nicer way: even supporting Tory workfare legislation in the Commons: making clear to people on benefits that they were not wanted by the new Labour party.
I understand why it’s comforting to keep us separate. It’s not that claiming benefits is bad. The situation that necessitates claiming benefits is bad. I did everything I was meant to do to be self-sufficient. I went to university, I earned less money than my work deserved in the hope of the next, better job. And still, I am here, receiving little brown envelopes from the DWP that even with a university education, I still don’t always understand. You can get ill. You can be made redundant. You are working today. You may not be working tomorrow.
I don’t know who to vote for. I know I don’t want another five years of this, not only policy-wise, but of a culture that makes me feel the need to apologise for claiming money so I can eat. It would be a lot easier to give my vote to Labour if they hadn’t so forthrightly said they didn’t want me.
Doubtless Labour will blame the SNP or the people of Scotland for not voting Labour, but simple arithmetic would tell them they’re wrong: if Labour had held every seat in Scotland, and gained every seat the LibDems lost in Scotland, they would still not have had enough MPs to challenge Cameron’s new government. Labour lost this election in England, and they need to consider why.
Ed Miliband claims it was a “surge of nationalism” in Scotland: needs to learn it was left-wing voters disgusted with #Labour veering right.
— Jane Carnall (@EyeEdinburgh) May 8, 2015
Scotland and the SNP
Ed Miliband claimed it was a “surge of nationalism” that gained so many seats for the SNP in Scotland: no, he needs to learn it was left-wing voters disgusted with Labour veering right: a 71.1% turnout across Scotland (not record-breaking: about the same as in 1992) who voted for a party that had campaigned on locking out the Tories. Labour were campaigning against the SNP in Scotland, and Jim Murphy well deserved to lose his seat.
Doubtless there will be more about this later, but one noticeable thing about the new SNP MPs: few of them were political careerists.
Mhairi Black, aged 20, a student, who defeated Douglas Alexander and who is now the youngest MP in the Commons since Charles James Fox‘s father bought him the constituency of Midhurst in West Sussex in 1768 when Fox was 19: but Mhairi Black is the youngest MP ever elected since the Reform Act of 1832. (And she still has to complete her dissertation to get her degree from the University of Glasgow.)
Kirsten Oswald, who defeated Jim Murphy in East Renfrewshire, is “a senior Human Resources professional, working in the Further Education sector”: she joined the SNP last June.
The “traditional route” into being an MP has for decades been to go to a good university – Oxford helps if you want to be a Tory – or run for a NUS position, if you want to be Labour. To leave university and get a job working for an MP or a peer of your chosen party. Some of the 55 SNP MPs heading to Westminster were political careerists: but many, especially those who beat Labour and LibDem heavyweights, were ordinary people in regular jobs who weren’t thinking in May 2014 that this time next year they’d be Members of Parliament.
That Nigel Farage lost Thanet South and has quit as party leader of UKIP. That would be a lovely, lovely thought. Mark Reckless lost Rochester and Strood. UKIP have just one MP now: Douglas Carswell, who’d be a good contender for the leadership position if Farage quits.
Farage is a figure of fun: he ran UKIP incompetently and with favouritism. He blustered about free speech in defense of UKIP racism and homophobia: he blustered angrily about being attacked when people made jokes about UKIP or himself, or when BBC audiences turned out not to have the UKIP supporters he plays to.
Douglas Carswell would be a much more dangerous leader: he actually sounds like he knows what he’s doing.
I’m glad Caroline Lucas won Brighton Pavillion again: but elsewhere the Greens had a dismal night with a very poor showing. They ran the 2015 campaign badly, and failed to take advantage of the LibDem flop in the vote. I still like their policies but their selection process seems to favour people who are neither good at media work nor understand why it matters.
At current count, the Liberal Democrats have 8 MPs: they lost 47 seats. The only LibDem MP left in Scotland is Alistair Carmichael, Orkney and Shetland, who appears likely to have to answer some serious questions about the leaked Nicola Sturgeon memo. I foresee a byelection in Orkney and Shetland in the near future, though I anticipate they’ll elect another LibDem as usual.
Nick Clegg held onto his seat thanks to tactical voting by Tories. Vince Cable, Charles Kennedy, David Laws, Danny Alexander – they’ve all paid the price of Nick Clegg and Vince Cable deciding in May 2010 that they wanted to be in government.
Well, for me: bath, coffee, and breakfast.
For the country?
Neil Kinnock told us in 1983:
I warn you that you will have pain – when healing and relief depend upon payment. I warn you that you will have ignorance – when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right. I warn you that you will have poverty – when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay. I warn you that you will be cold – when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.
I warn you that you must not expect work – when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies. I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light. I warn you that you will be quiet – when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient. I warn you that you will have defence of a sort – with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding. I warn you that you will be home-bound – when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up. I warn you that you will borrow less – when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.