- Cameron could potentially lead a majority government
- Appalling night for Miliband across the UK
- SNP dominate in Scotland; Labour wiped out
- Liberal Democrats decimated, Clegg re-elected but survival as Leader in doubt
- George Galloway loses seat to Labour
- Thanet yet to declare
Whilst the exit poll predicted the Conservatives as the largest party with 316 seats, the latest BBC prediction with 497 of 632 British seats declared has the Conservatives with a working majority of 325; Labour with 232; SNP with 56; Lib Dems with 12; UKIP with 2 and Greens with 1.
From the Government, the big name casualties have come largely from the Liberal Democrats. Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson have all lost their seats, among many others. The main surprise in terms of Conservative Government Ministers is that one of the women tipped for the top of the party, Esther McVey, has lost her seat in Wirral West. With 170 seats still to be decided, there is still the potential for further shocks on this increasingly turbulent morning.
Well that didn’t go to script. The pollsters said it would be knife-edge vote, with the main parties going into the election head to head. But like a soap opera delivering an unexpected massacre of its major stars, Labour and Liberal Democrat figures have fallen like flies, with an unlikely David Cameron left holding the knife in England and Sturgeon a particularly sharp thistle, in Scotland.
Ironically, it was Labour who had been perceived to have had the better campaign. Ed Miliband was far from the disaster that some had predicted, and he performed well in the TV debates. He found his politics and his audience during the short campaign – and his followers made better use of social media and celebrity endorsement. In contrast, Cameron at times looked almost too relaxed, as if this was something he really rather wearily had to do. Meanwhile Clegg simply could not be heard.
The SNP under the fragrant Nicola Sturgeon destroyed Labour’s once formidable block vote in Scotland. In fact, as we write this, Labour has the same number of seats north of the border than the Tories. It is almost inconceivable. The founders of devolution and labour heavyweights such as John Smith, Robin Cook and Donald Dewar will be turning in their graves. Labour’s leader Jim Murphy gave a dignified speech in which he said he would carry on and help the party find its voice again. We predict it will take a decade in the best of circumstances. And the small matter of referendum 2.0 will not be the best of circumstances.
With a command of over 90% of seats, Nicola Sturgeon won’t just be able to demand another referendum, she will effectively be a senior Leader of the Opposition while Labour goes through endless internal change. The Labour collapse in Scotland is the biggest political failure in a generation.
Former Liberal Democrat Leader (its first, in fact) Paddy Ashdown said live on air that he would eat his hat if the exit poll predictions would come true for his party. Someone had better get him Vince Cable’s fedora and a knife and fork, as the results were even worse. At this rate, the only Liberal Democrat who could replace Clegg if he resigns is Clegg himself. Down to single figures, the Liberal Democrats have been put through the shredder by supporters who feel betrayed by the decisions they made in power. In reality, many pundits agree that the Coalition worked reasonably well and that the Liberal Democrats got much of their key measures through parliament. They are now reduced to a not especially effective presence in quaint local authorities. Depending on who the next two leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats will be, a Liberal/SDP-style Alliance between the two parties may have to be considered.
What will we expect later today
- Later this morning, David Cameron will declare that he has enough support to form a Government. Mr Miliband is hardly in a position to argue against this. He has also ruled out a coalition with the SNP. There is no clear or credible counter to Cameron’s claim.
- Ed Miliband and and Clegg under pressure to resign.
- The SNP will not be able to resist being triumphalist, especially after the No result last year. Ms Sturgeon will say warm words about Labour and will reserve her wrath for the Conservatives. But there won’t be any deals with anyone.
In the medium term, Cameron has already said that he wants to serve as a one-nation Prime Minister. Sources close to Downing Street have also ruled out a full devolution settlement which would include England.
The most boring campaign in recent history has delivered the most seismic shift in politics since Blair. But it is more than that. It will define the very future shape of Great Britain, its political class, its nations and its constitution. From nowhere, the UK as we knew it is over.
More at noon.
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November 20, 2023
November 15, 2023