View from the chair - update
Ok so my contribution to this journal is going to feature lots of interesting and lovely things and reach out well beyond the scope of politics, but for the time being I do feel I need to have a bit of a look back over the last few days and share some thoughts on what happened.
Well the first thing that happened of course is that the polls got it wrong. Not wrong like when someone accidentally writes "Kevin" instead of "Kelvin", nor like when someone writes "Fuck" instead of "Duck". What we have here is wrong like when someone cuts their arm off with a chainsaw instead of writing "Happy Birthday Joyce". That wrong.
"But why?" I hear you ask, "How could such a thing have happened?". Let me first offer some suggestions to explain the actual result, and then finish off by giving my little bit about what I think actually went wrong with the polls.
So first of all, the obvious question is "Why did the Tories do so well?". The straight answer of course is that they didn't. If you actually look at it, they got just over a third of the votes cast, and just under two thirds of the eligible population actually cast their vote. Lets dumb down and say they got a third of the votes cast and two thirds of people voted. So they got one third of two thirds of the possible vote. To put it in simple terms, that means that less than a quarter of the people who could have voted actually voted Tory. Yes, I'm afraid you read that right. A party that represents the final decision of less than a quarter of us now hold a majority in our government and as such doesn't have to ask for anybody else's help in order to do the things they want to do. It's like Metallica headlining Glastonbury all over again, not many people really wanted it, it happened anyway, and in retrospect most people thought it was a bad idea. So as a result, we have possibly the most controversial figure in the modern history of British politics, Michael Gove (a man so odiously right wing that even David Cameron had to remove him from the education job), responsible for justice in the UK and already planning to remove the basic legal protection that is afforded to human rights in this country. Yeah, yeah, I know, Abu Hamza and all that, there are better ways believe me. On top of that we have a new senior cabinet minister who wants to bring back the death penalty. Yet again, I know I don't speak to all of you, but seriously? I mean, seriously? We won't need a referendum on Europe soon, they'll kick us out and then we'll have to become the 51st state/Airstrip One depending on whether you prefer film or media references. Sorry, I've gone a bit serious haven't I. Maybe I just need to say "Arse" here to lighten the mood a little.
Ok, so why did Labour do so badly? Avoiding bacon sandwich references this time (except for that one just there), they simply went into the campaign with no balls, and ironically have come out of the election having lost their Balls. See what I did there? You're with me yes? So anyway, to me Mr Milliband's big mistake was trying to do a Blair 1997 and take the Tory vote having unfortunately forgotten that they also needed the Labour vote. In 1997 Labour managed to retain pretty much all of their core voters as they were still called "Labour" and the future was still unknown but by undeniably stepping to the right they also stole vast swathes of the Tory vote but then ended up losing their core voters over the next 13 years. What they should have done at this election is have the guts to try to bring some of their natural supporters back into the fold, but they didn't, they continued to court the supporters they already had, and by now a lot of them had already gone back to being blue having recognised that Milliband was no Blair. The result was a mixed message, a not particularly charismatic leader wanting to be the next Tony Blair and appeal to and retain the new voters brought into the fold in 1997 yet wanting to come across as a proper Labour leader capable of attracting proper Labour votes. The Blairite ambitions were the only thing that kept the level of support he did get, the attempts to appeal to the left failed and only succeeded in getting him the woefully inaccurate nickname "Red Ed" from brain dead pond scum such as Katy Hopkins. The overall result was a large number of disaffected Labour voters wanting to be mopped up somewhere, and a couple of leaders savvy enough to have pre-equipped themselves with the latest range from Vileda. That's a mop brand by the way, a good one, very good quality mops, very absorbent and quite reasonably priced.
So who brought the mops?
Well there are two main facets to the traditional Labour core vote. There are left wing people and there are working class people, and the two don't necessarily go hand in hand.
The largest spread of left wing voters in the UK has always been north of the border in Scotland, and here we have seen the first and possibly most devastating application of a mop. Theories abound concerning the runaway success of the SNP in this election, but I'm not entirely convinced that we have seen a further runaway appetite for independence. Instead, I think the single most plausible answer is that Labour no longer appealed to the left wing vote base and that the SNP were pretty much brave enough to say everything that Kinnock was saying back in the day when most of Scotland voted for him. Nicola Sturgeon seems to have done everything bar shaving most of her head, dyeing the remaining small amount of it ginger and falling over on a beach in Brighton. Though who knows, maybe she did once fall over on beach in Brighton but was sensible enough not to do it as part of a photocall for the national press, therefore avoiding ending up looking like a twat. The major success up there amongst the thistles has of course come as a result of the fact that everyone used to vote labour, so everyone has now voted SNP.
The second wielder of the Mop of Labour Doom have been UKIP, and it's debatable whether theirs is the greater or lesser success story. The main difference has been that they were standing in seats which had a significant level of support for parties other than Labour, and despite managing to steal a huge amount of the working class support in those seats (and polling significantly higher in terms of actual votes than the SNP), support for the Tories largely held up meaning their impressive vote share didn't translate to an impressive seat share. Good old barmy Nigel of course promptly resigned, but since then his party have promptly unresigned him. So he's back, black collared coat, pint of beer, unreasonable opinions and all.
Balance of course dictates that I allot a certain amount of text to the Lib Dems. They got royally shafted and nobody is ever ever every going to trust them again. Well, not for a long time. But do you know what's sad in a small way? These were the only ones who stopped a rampant Tory party from taking steps that even Thatcher shied away from. Like them or not, they moderated the extremities of the previous government yet have taken every inch of the rap for everything bad that's happened in the last five years. David Cameron must be thinking the coalition was the best thing he ever did. Nick Clegg must be thinking "Bastard".
Other parties were involved of course, and I think the Greens stole enough seats across the board to be pleased with their percentage and fucked right off with their number of seats. Plaid Cymru polled as well as anyone expected, but are not yet in a position to be given a mop (having to make do with a floorcloth made out of someone's old pants for the time being). Northern Ireland returned its usual mixture of Sinn Fein, Alliance and various parties whose names end in "UP" (Ulster Unionist party, Democratic Unionist Party, Fully Unconceivable Crimson Kettle Unionist Party - I shall pause while you catch up with me...).
So what are we now left with?
Well, in the cheese shop that is the United Kingdom, The Tories are a Large block of mild cheddar, Labour are The Wallace and Gromit themed Wensleydale, SNP are a new previously untried Cheese that has turned out to be surprisingly tasty, UKIP are processed generic English Cheese which is largely ignored by serious consumers but popular with the cheese on toast brigade, Plaid Cymru are the small block of Caerphilly which sells to a few dedicated consumers, The Greens are Yarg (popular in the South West and wrapped in hand foraged nettle leaves), The Irish parties are a mixture of Dromona and Coleraine cheeses and the Lib Dems are the very small remaining piece of Stinking Bishop which has been on the shelf for the last five years and which nobody is prepared to touch any more.
Between me and you, I'm still quite partial to Wensleydale.
As to what went wrong with the polls? I genuinely think it's simple. A large number of people were always going to going to vote UKIP, but in my limited firsthand experience, not nearly as many people were prepared to say openly that they were going to vote UKIP. It's like a guilty secret. So I reckon that a lot of the people who declared as undecided were very much decided yet not prepared to say so and that it's here that the doom of Ed Milliband had already been played out but not yet revealed. See, easy