On Friday 11th September, David Cameron intended to launch Project Islington: a series of dirty-bomb attacks on Jeremy Corbyn based on weeks of research over the summer as the Tories realised to their horror that the backbench Labour MP from Islington North with all those dreary left-wing ideas might actually win.
Prime Ministerial staff have been trailing Corbyn round the country ever since the YouGov poll revealed on 22nd July that Corbyn had a solid lead over any of the three candidates the Tories would have preferred to be leading Labour today.
Unfortunately, Cameron was caught making a little quip about people from Yorkshire
“We just thought people in Yorkshire hated everyone else, we didn’t realise they hated each other so much.”
when he didn’t realise the mike was live, and what should have been a resounding speech denouncing Jeremy Corbyn became an amused discussion of Cameron’s loose lips.
Comfy in Susan Rae’s tiny sitting-room, in her flat at the top of Shrubhill, with a cup of tea, I ask her “So why did you move to Edinburgh from the Borders?” I knew she’d moved here seven years ago.
An American once told me, exasperated, “When I ask why you guys always say ‘Well, four hundred years ago – ‘”
This is of course quite untrue. Sometimes, it’s five hundred years ago.
“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.)
I wonder what Ed Miliband will do with his big lump of stone now?
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.
Only in England would the leader of a political party announce he plans a coup to overthrow the democratically-elected government, in the Daily Telegraph, two days in advance.
Just a month ago, Adam Ramsay warned on the OpenDemocracy site:
If they [the Tory press] can possibly get away with it, they will find any way they can to declare Cameron the winner, even if it’s going to be almost impossible for him to command a parliamentary majority. In doing so, they will seek to make it impossible for Miliband to govern. This circumstance would in effect be a coup by newspaper proprietors against the people of the country. Because our constitution is written not in statute, but headlines, this is perfectly possible.
It’s complicated by the fact that until a new government is formed, Cameron and the other Tory and LibDem Ministers remain in Downing Street as a caretaker government, even if they have lost their seats and aren’t MPs any longer. Just as Gordon Brown correctly remained in Downing Street as Prime Minister until Cameron and Clegg had finished their coalition deal, so must Cameron stay on as PM until the House of Commons decides how to form a democratically-elected government out of the results of the 7th May election.
If you live in Scotland, you’re almost certainly registered to vote – practically everyone was in the referendum in September 2014, and if you haven’t changed addresses since then, you still are.
If you didn’t receive a polling card because you registered too close to the 20th April deadline, or for some other reason, you can still vote: find which is your local polling station from your local election office and just go there. You don’t need ID to vote, but if you don’t have a polling card it would be a wise precaution to take some proof of address/identity with you: a local polling officer may not know the regulations and it would be faster to provide your proof than to argue with them. (You shouldn’t have to argue with them and you probably won’t, even if you don’t have a polling card: please don’t go in with a confrontational attitude.)
If not for the rise of the SNP, Labour would be looking forward to five years in government, the Conservatives would be lagging behind Labour by 30+ MPs, and the LibDems would be looking forward to five years as the party that helps either Labour or the Tories form a majority government.
If not for the rise of the SNP, Labour would be comfortably the largest party in the House of Commons after 7th May instead of desperately trying to save what they can in Scotland, and the LibDems might be expecting to lose only half their seats, instead of a likely two-thirds.
If Ed Miliband and David Cameron have both learned something terrible is coming before 2020 that they would rather be in Opposition than have to deal with as Prime Minister, this could explain both David Cameron’s lacklustre campaigning and Ed Miliband’s curious statement last night on Question Time: neither one wants to be Prime Minister.
However, this does seem improbable to me.
Take it as a given: Ed Miliband wants to be Prime Minister.
Yet, on Question Time on 30th April, with just a week to go to the election, he seemed to reject the job:
“I am not going to have a Labour government if it means deals or coalitions with the Scottish National Party.”
“If the price of having a Labour government is a deal or coalition with the SNP, it’s not going to happen.”
What was Miliband thinking?
On 14th April 2011, David Cameron made a promise:
So, taking all this into account, I believe controlling immigration and bringing it down is of vital importance to the future of our country.
That’s why during the election campaign, Conservatives made a clear commitment to the British people…
…that we would aim to reduce net migration to the levels we saw in the 1980s and 1990s.
Now we are in government, we are on track to meet that aim.
Nick Clegg thinks that the problem with that promise was that it was undeliverable:
“I said to David Cameron he shouldn’t make the commitment because it was inevitable he was going to break it because you can’t control the net figure… We said we were not going to do it as a coalition government. It is very embarrassing for the Conservatives. They made a huge amount of fanfare about it and they were warned by me and others ‘Don’t do this, it doesn’t make any sense’.”
(If you are a white UK-born LibDem supporter, however, the Conservative/LibDem government responsible for this is “The best UK Government of my lifetime”, so there.)
Labour think they’ll pick up votes by pledging to have more controls on immigration.
(Though in fairness, Diane Abbott condemned the mug as “shameful” and the pledge as a problem, for which she was predictably condemned in the not-at-all racist Spectator. (There’s just something about Diane Abbott they don’t like.))