The votes are in and as they say on talent shows, have been counted and verified (sometimes twice). There is nothing more we can do except accept the result.
I am, of course, talking about the result of the general election held on May 7. Shortly after 10 pm, social media, Twitter in particular, went into meltdown when it was revealed that the exit polls put the Conservative party as the one with the most MPs. Every single opinion poll throughout the campaign and indeed the best part of the last year, put the Conservatives and Labour almost neck and neck and even the so-called expert commentators were surprised. There was a ring of 1992 to it all. At that time, it was likely they would need to, once again, form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats but with more seats gained than in 2010, there was an expectation they would try to run as a minority government. Those unhappy with the exit polls and who went to bed at some point within the next few hours, did so with heavy hearts but a glimmer of hope. A coalition would keep the Conservatives in check again, a minority government would be unlikely to last a year. An alternative would be for Labour to form a coalition with the SNP but it was difficult to see how that could happen given Ed Miliband’s public refusal to work them and that the incumbent government gets first refusal to form a new one.
I took myself to bed around 1am and woke again at 5.30 after a restless few hours sleep, really not sure what I would see when I turned the TV on. I, like the vast majority of the rest of the country, was in for a shock. It was now expected that we would have a Conservative majority government, albeit a slim majority. As the last few results rolled in throughout the morning, a Conservative government was confirmed. The Conservatives had fared far better than the exit polls suggested, the Liberal Democrats were all but wiped out and Labour had fared worse than expected.
There were a few silver linings for those that were upset. Caroline Lucas for the Green Party had increased her majority in Brighton. Nigel Farage lost his seat for UKIP as did George Galloway for Respect. By lunchtime three parties had lost their leaders, although Nigel Farage’s resignation was rather weak it was still something we could all cheer about.
Why did Labour do so badly? I suspect there are many reasons for this. For the best part of a year or even more, there were many both within the Labour party and outside who felt that Ed Miliband simply wouldn’t make a strong Prime Minister. Many people I have spoken to feel that Labour’s fiscal policy wasn’t up to scratch. Perhaps they didn’t stand up to shouts of the economic crash being their fault (it was an international banking crisis). And the Liberal Democrats? They were always going to lose support when they went into coalition with the Conservatives and backed down over university tuition fees and yet I don’t suppose they expected to lose as much as they did. History shows that the smaller party in a coalition takes the flak and take the flak they did. Maybe they could have shouted more about what they helped to achieve. Much of what the Conservatives fanfare were on the Liberal Democrats manifesto for 2010; pupil premium, equal marriage, raising the threshold for income tax. They could have told the public what they helped to prevent happen; the rapid renewal of Trident, allowing employers to sack employees whenever they want. In my opinion they were made scapegoats.
So has followed two days of arguments, name-calling, unfriending, unfollowing and blocking on social media. Those on the left couldn’t understand why people voted Conservative. Many people, particularly the more vulnerable, feel genuine fear about what lies ahead for them. Others were concerned for other people despite the fact that they themselves will be alright. By lunchtime on Saturday, a mere 24 hours after a new government, protests had started in London. V.E Day celebrations were marred, on social media at least, by the protests turning ugly and a war memorial being defaced.
What lies ahead now feels uncertain. Yes the conservatives have a majority but it is a slim one of just 12 seats, hardly a landslide and that makes for a fragile government, although more stable than a minority government. There are many Conservative MPs who are known for rebelling, voting on matters with their conscience rather than toeing the party line. There is a lot of fear around where exactly the axe will fall with £12 billion cuts to welfare, to scrapping the Human Rights Act and the so-called “snooping act”. There will now be a referendum on our membership of the EU by 2017 and I find the thought of leaving the EU quite frightening myself. Naturally there is a lot of talk around what will happen to Scotland now, will they seek another referendum on independence? Will they seek more powers and effectively become a federal state? Who knows. I have seen a wave of people sign up to be members of political parties, making promises to help in areas where the cuts are likely to be made, to volunteer in food banks and children centres (or what remains of them).
Will the UK remain united? Will we still be part of the EU in the next general election? One thing is certain, things are going to change.