Sunday, 10 May 2015

Election clarity

There are five things I don’t read about in the standard press coverage of the General Election.

First, Ed Miliband actually did better than David Cameron in increasing his party’s share of the overall vote: Labour increased by 1.4% while the Conservative increased by only 0.8%; it was all the other variables (including the SNP taking 40 Labour seats in Scotland and the LibDem collapse producing erratic outcomes in first-past-the-post system in England) which meant this Conservative increase of less than 1% took Cameron to an overall majority while the Labour increase of nearly 1.5% meant they ended up with 26 fewer seats than before.  The amount Miliband did better was even clearer in England: Labour increased here by 3.6% while the Conservatives increased by only 1.4%; here the electoral maths delivered only 15 extra seats to Labour compared with 21 extra seats to the Conservatives.

Secondly, the result was one which was predictable a year ago.  By a combination of luck (I had no idea, for example, that the SNP would win 8.6% of the seats in the new Parliament) and judgement, I got close to an accurate prediction with a post which concluded: If in a year’s time the Lib-Dems are punished as severely as they deserve for what their previous supporters see as delivering five years of punitive Conservative government, that unravels  all the old ‘three party politics’ maths which gave us a ‘hung parliament’ last time.  If in a year’s time UKIP enters a first-past-the-post election with only a quarter of national voting support [we now know they got half this], that will simply make no impact.  It will be two party politics time again – and one of the two parties would be likely to come out of the election with an absolute majority.

Thirdly, if the former Lib-Dem voters were really seeking to 'punish' that party 'for delivering five years of punitive Conservative government' then the ploy backfired spectacularly: the Conservatives picked up 15 more former LibDem seats than Labour did; without those 15 seats the Conservatives wouldn't now be in a position to deliver a second five years of government unfettered by any coalition restraint.

Fourthly, and almost most strikingly, it wasn’t quite a quarter of registered voters (24.4%) who put their crosses against a Conservative candidate – a proportion which is, of course, legitimately enough to secure an absolute majority of seats for them in the Parliament.  This quarter will not correspond directly with the most prosperous quarter of the population (some Tory voters are comparatively poor, some comparatively rich voters support other parties), but it will correlate with it (a high proportion of those in a room of random Tory will be comparatively rich, a room of the most vulnerable in society will contain few Tory voters).  Few will bother with the moral implications if a Government elected without the active consent of most of the ‘bottom’ three-quarters of the population turns out to increase the wealth of top earners, dismantles much of the welfare support for bottom earners, withdraws Human Rights protection and increases surveillance of the population at large, but, if anything like that happens, I don’t imagine history would be kind.

Finally, the level of cuts in local services which we will face in the next five years will dwarf those of the last five years.  Someone like me in the middle (a stipend and tied house places me close to the average position for earners) can afford things like the £60 I’ve just paid for a previously free garden waste collection service and to buy the new book I’m reading in a parish in which the last library has just been closed, but this can only be the beginning, and those much less prosperous than me will not have such freedom even if to any extent ‘we will all benefit from wealth creation and a stronger economy’.  If the stock of Housing Association property goes the way of the previous stock of Council Housing, their children might eventually not even find affordable homes easy to come by.

The picture is Great Billing Parish Church.

(Slightly revised, and third point added, on 11th May.)

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