I was always a politics nerd. I suppose the first Westminster election that I ever watched “thru the night” was in 1964. I was 12 years old. It was a narrow Labour win.
Then..1966 (Labour) , 1970 (Tory win..the first in which I voted at 18 years of age), two elections in 1974 (both Labour), 1979 (Tory and Thatcher), 1983 (Tory), 1987 (Tory), 1992 (Tory), 1997 (Labour and Tony B Liar), 2001 (Labour), 2005 (Labour) and 2010 (Tory-Lib Dem).
I have already seen twelve Westminster elections in half a century. I have stayed up all night watching results. We can…as always ….ignore Norn Iron. There is a pattern which has not changed much since Richard Dimbleby, Robert McKenzie, Robin Day and David Butler announced and analysed the results. The graphics might be more sophisticated but the basics are the same.
The polls close at 10pm. The Exit Poll prediction is relatively new. “The BBC call itfor Labour by 43 seats” or “ITN call it for Labour by 37 seats”….and there is a split screen shot of reaction in Labour and Conservative Headquarters. Politicians do the “lets wait and see” quotes.
By midnight the race to be the first constituency to make a declaration is over. Sunderland South usually and its a 2.3 per cent swing to Labour. We go over to Basildon and its a 4.9 per cent swing but Manchester Central has just come in at a surprising 0.5 per cent swing to the Conservatives.
Reporters around England, Scotland and Wales are reporting that a major Tory figure is in trouble. A cabinet minister might lose his seat. After ten results, we know how is going. The predicted victory margin is rising and falling.
And thats the way it has always been. The Electoral Cycle often based on the Economic Cycle. “Two Party Britain” and “Two and a Half Party Britain” and in 2010 “Three Party Britain”. And in 2015….Chaos. For those of us who enjoy a little Chaos….this is the most interesting Election I have seen.
I have witnessed the Rise and Fall of two political revolutions….Thatcher and Blair.
It is odd that Britain’s “first past the post” or “winner takes all” voting system is supposed to be unfair but stable and therefore better than the “Proportional Representation” system which is more fair but unstable as it necessarily brings more political parties into Parliament and is prone to produce a “coalition”. All of which is far too “European” for British sensibilities.
There is no constitutional basis for “Leaders Debates”. It was a mistake for politicians to agree to it 2010. It was an idea, driven by broadcasters and now we have the chaos of a debate which featured the Leaders of SEVEN political parties and one which featured Leaders from FIVE Opposition parties.
What has happened? There was an old cliché that Tories lived in Downton Abbey and shot grouse and Labourites lived in Coronation Street and raced pigeons. As the old certainties disappear and earnest young political advisors agonise about how policies will resonate with “Worcester Woman” (the English cousin of “Soccer Mom”) traditional supporters are left behind.
The rise of the SNP is not just about Scottish Independence.
In the 1950s, the leading Party in Scotland was the Conservative Party. From the Thatcher years, Labour has dominated. Only one Tory was elected in 2010. But effectively, Scotland…a Labour heartland for so long, has been left behind as “Worcester Woman” is courted.
But factor in the Referendum results. The “British” parties formed an unholy alliance to defeat the Scottish nationalists…but the 45% who voted “YES” are not in a mood to forgive. That kinda percentage is enough to guarantee that SNP will take around forty seats next month. And that Labour will lose around thirty-five seats. It is unlikely that Labour can re-coop these losses inEngland.
So I have seen the Thatcher Revolution. I have seen the Blair Revolution. And now…I am watching the Sturgeon Revolution. And Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP Leader is not even standing for Westminster.
This is not an election about Policy. This is an election about Mathematics.
There are 650 seats in the British House of Commons. It is likely that over fifty will be held by nationalists (SNP, SDLP and Plaid Cymru) and Green or abstentionists (Sinn Féin). Maybe ten to twelve seats will be held by DUP and UKIP. Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the governing coalition will lose seats. Labour will probably gain seats in England but not enough to win an overall majority. And the Tories need to gain seats to get an overall majority.
So really the General Election is 650 individual contests. Tactical voting and simple score-settling will produce perverse and contradictory results.
And then the fun begins.
If they cant have an overall majority, the Conservatives can turn to the centre (Liberal Democrat) or far right (DUP and UKIP) to form a governing coalition.
If they cant have an overall majority, Labour will turn to the centre (Liberal Democrat) to form a coalition. But Labour cant form a coalition with the nationalists, whose prime objective is the dissolution of the disUnited Kingdom. The best they can hope for is that the nationalists support Ed Miliband on an issue-by-issue basis. For five years?
But the nationalists (and Greens) are actually more socialist than Labour. Labour are failing on issues of global justice, disarmament and traditional values.
I hesitate to use words like “nationalist” and “socialist” together. I am thinking more of James Connolly than Adolf Hitler.
But the alternative seems to be “international” socialist. The British Labour Party seems to despise the SNP. The Edinburgh Spring of 2015 is hardly the Prague Spring of 1968. But how will the “international” socialists in Westminster deal with the SNP. Precedent suggests that Nicola Sturgeon will be made an offer she cannot refuse and the SNP handcuffed and flown to London and forced to recant. Of course Ed Miliband, Hattie Harman, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham are democrats. So….Fleet Street, BBC, ITN and Sky News and Spooks ….unionists…will be invited to attack SNP.
Buy lots of popcorn.