Although there aren’t many benefits to migraines, having a long-lasting migraine that hit on Thursday night and lasted until Sunday lunchtime did have some in light of the election.
Looking at the results one thing was obvious - there were really only two winners, the DUP and Jeremy Corbyn.
UKIP really lost, they went from a genuine third force to forgotten, polling less than 2% nationwide. The Conservatives lost, going from a small but basically workable majority to being the largest party but minority government. The Labour Party lost - they’re still 60 seats away from forming a government and the majority of their MPs and peers who have been preaching Corbyn is an electoral disaster were proven wrong when he increased their vote share, their number of seats and pulled new voters out to vote all as he predicted, leaving him a defeated Socialist leader in a stronger position than he was in before. This has left the bulk of Labour MPs with major egg on their faces and the wider Labour Party and supporters wondering “What if?” The SNP lost, although perhaps not badly. They were always going to lose seats after their high-water mark of 2015, and promising IndyRef2 was always going to be a gamble. Although a number of SNP big-hitters lost their seats, did they actually lose more seats than they would have lost without saying that? I suspect the answer is yes, but not many, which is why I’m calling them losers, but not badly. The LibDems I’m going to count as marginal losers as well. I know they gained seats overall, they were always going to do the opposite of the SNP and bounce back after being almost annihilated in 2015 but they got squeezed in the return to the big two parties and didn’t do as well as expected and also lost their sole remaining big-hitter Nick Clegg.
In Northern Ireland the SDLP and the UUP both got squeezed and Sinn Fein and the DUP took all the seats for Northern Ireland.
And biggest loser of all, Theresa May gambled she’d win a big victory, a large majority and a sweeping mandate. Although her supporters are spinning how big her support percentage was, and the number of voters were (both true), the return to two-party politics meant she didn’t win a majority or a mandate. If things had gone to plane she would have been able to reshuffle with impunity and shove her policies through as she liked. That miscalculation has her walking a tightrope. It appears she has just enough support to remain in power for the time being. But while the DUP and the Conservatives are both right-of-centre (in UK political terms) parties, they’re not incredibly close. David Cameron pushed through a lot of socially liberal changes about gay marriage and the like. The DUP are violently opposed to abortion and LGBTQA rights. The leader of the Scottish Tories is out and proud and getting married to her partner soon. There could be some fun conflict there! The Tory slogan “No deal is better than a bad deal” is anathema to the DUP when open borders between Ulster and Eire is a bedrock of their campaigning, and just about the only thing they might agree with Sinn Fein on. Although it’s not quite right, the DUP are pretty close to the Religious Right of the Republican Party in US politics, except they want an open border.
May’s electoral calculus seemed to be based on a belief, that a lot of people shared, that all the UKIP supporters would magically turn into Tory supporters. I think runes are a bit hard to read, the simplistic version seems to be that the UKIP supporters split roughly 50-50 Tory and Labour and then Labour picked up a swell of young voters, especially students as well. I have a feeling it may not be quite that simple, I suspect a lot of UKIP supporters went Tory but a lot stayed at home, a smallish number went Labour. And the centre ground went Labour as well as an upsurge in the young voting. We don’t track age profiles very well, not quickly, but I think that’s what we’ll see as those numbers start to emerge. The one-issue UKIP voters have not voted, last time’s defectors to UKIP have mostly gone back to their old voting patterns, mostly Tory, some Labour. The thing that made the big difference was a chunk of older people voting Labour after some disastrous policies from the May Manifesto and better ones from the Labour manifesto and a real increase in the youth vote.
The suggestion of badly Theresa May misread the electoral runes is backed up by one important thing, even if the reasoning is awry. If you look at the places she visited, it seems reasonable to assume you spend your time and effort rolling out the party leader when you expect her to do most good. In seats you need to defend or seats you hope to win. She toured Labour strongholds, so clearly seats they hoped to win. And in the new electoral map, they were off by about 100 seats. It’s a bit harder with Jeremy Corbyn - many of his own MPs didn’t want him on their campaign leaflets and so didn’t want him to turn up. What his campaign seems to have achieved is two things - getting his voice on the news and young people sharing their thoughts and their videos and their pictures on social media and getting each other to vote. There’s a silly moment on his way to give a speech where he asked someone in the crowd if he could have a Pringle, he took one, and he said thank you. It’s not at all Prime Ministerial, it’s certainly not Presidential, and it’s certainly not scripted. But the crowd loved it. It was a little, human gesture and when your platform is based on “For the many, not the few” appearing to be one of the crowd, acting like a normal person is a plus.
One reading of the runes, at least for England and Wales, that I have heard and that suggests that this return to largely two-party politics might be temporary, is that this was a Brexit election after all: the two parties that got over 80% of the vote are the two that said “OK, you voted for Brexit, so we’re going to give you Brexit,” albeit in different ways. UKIP vanished because they said “We want you to vote for Brexit” and that had been done. But the LibDems stood, in part, on “A second referendum about Brexit” and although they did improve their vote and their MPs they did, by and large, get squeezed in a lot of a seats. The analysis suggested this was also the case in Scotland which was just lazy - Scotland it seems to me was a retreat from a high-water mark and a reaction to IndyRef2 rather than a direct endorsement of Brexit by and large. I don’t think this was the whole story of the election but it might, to some extent, explain the drive to two party politics and why the LibDems increased their seats but did really badly in a lot of other seats.
Having criticised the opinion polls over my previous posts, it was clear that while they all got some trends right, the disappearance of UKIP for example, most of them were fairly badly out. One poll correctly predicted a hung parliament and only a few suggested a 5% lead or less, which is within the margin of error. One poll was out at a 12% Tory lead. There is a saying in military circles, which is quite well known elsewhere, that generals prepare to fight the last war. The pollsters corrected after the last election, where they over-estimated the Labour vote for various reasons. They tried to correct for that but this time it appears that last time’s model was more accurate and those young Labour voters turned out and voted. Other things happened too and the pollsters were wrong again. Of course the pollsters will correct once again but come the next election who knows what factors will come into play and make voters turn out?
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