Friday, May 06, 2005

Election 2005: Early reflections

Weird election where almost everyone could claim to have done well and almost everyone has something to worry about.

For Labour, to have won a third successive election with a working majority is obviously unprecendented - yet paradoxically, they look pretty gloomy about it because compared to their showing in 1997 and 2001, they're obviously well-down.

For the Tories, better than expected and they seem to have - in the short run at least - ensured their survival as Labour's main challengers. The down side is that they remain at Michael Foot's Labour Party levels of popularity - more unified and disciplined than in the last two elections but still unable to reach beyond their natural constituency.

For the Lib Dems an impressive showing, with their share of votes and seats increasing more than the other two. They did well in Scotland and, as a unionist, I welcome the fact that they've pushed the SNP into third place.

Yet paradoxically, I think it's the Libs that have the most to worry about: it's probably too early to say but it looked to me like they were suffering from their usual problem of lacking a coherent left or right identity. They picked up votes from Labour due to their stance on civil liberties, tax-and-spend, as well as the war. Yet the picture from their battles with the Tories is that this may have put right-of-centre voters off because it seemed that former Labour voters in some parts of the country went straight over to the Tories in larger numbers than expected. In other words, the Liberals will be getting mixed messages concerning who they are trying to replace.

Moreover, I'd have thought that Blair is more likely to go sooner rather than later - which leaves the possibility that this could have a "Major-effect" in that a leadership change would deal with one of the major centre-left, middle-class stumbling blocks - Blair's leadership, and that may cost the Liberals these hard-fought for seats at the next election.

This was the most fragmented electorate I've ever seen: it'll surely increase demands for a proportional voting system yet again this election is paradoxical because it seems quite clear that a multi-party system is flourishing despite the first past the post voting system.

It also seems, taking turnout into account, that this government has been elected on the smallest share of the popular vote since 1945.

All in all - interesting and depressing at the same time: this was without question the nastiest, mean-spirited election that I've ever seen.

Back later when some of the numbers have soaked in properly.

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