Thursday, May 13, 2010

So happened in the UK election?

Well, a week has passed and the government is formed, so it's probably time to do a proper assessment of what happened in the general election. I'll write some separate posts on particular aspects of the results but thought it might be useful to provide a bit of an overview.

Taking a look at the results it seems to me that there was more than one election being fought depending on what part of country you were living in. If you were in Scotland not a single seat changed hands, and whilst there was some slight movement in the polls (with the Lib Dems slipping into second place) it was all much of a muchness - no feel of an historic election there at all.

If, like me, you live in London we saw something quite, quite different. In the central, traditionally Labour areas there was an extraordinary swing back to Labour. These were, of course, already Labour held seats (apart from Bethnal Green and Bow) so the electoral system meant that these swathes of voters coming out to keep the Tories from power did not end up influencing the Parliamentary vote.

What they *did* do is significantly effect the council elections, which were held on the same day. London as a whole saw Labour win back a large number of councils a leap forwards that came at the cost of all the others parties.

If we look at the following list of council seats in London we can see that the Lib Dems lost almost one in four of their councillors on a day that was meant to be their day, the Tories lost out and the minor parties and independents whether Respect, Green or BNP were pretty much flattened.

Labour 873 (+191)
Tory 712 (-67)
Lib Dem 241 (-74)
Assorted Independents/Residents 17 (-10)
Green 2 (-10)
Respect 1 (-14)
BNP 0 (-14)
Christian 0 (-3)
Socialist 0 (-2)

On the edges of London this effect was far less pronounced and the Tories gained seven seats in the outer ring of London where there has been much less of a Labour base to mobilise.

In the rest of England, outside of the larger cities, the story was quite different. There it was the Tories who carried the day, but not with such momentum that they were unbeatable and the Labour vote was still pretty resilient.

Certainly Greens managed to win council seats in new areas like Watford, Cambridge and Reading so the general election pull was far less strong there than in London. Although it should be pointed out that the Green vote proportion at the General was often down from last time around (Norwich and Cambridge are two exceptions that spring to mind).

This is partly down to the political terrain of the election, of course, but also the specific targeted strategy that the Greens have taken over the last few years that said it is better win a seat than get a general raising up of the vote across the board. That first Parliamentary seat is going to be extremely significant over the next five years in a way that an extra 0.3% of the national vote share would not have been, but it's still hard to take if you're not in the winning seat.

In Wales Labour was wiped out in the central more rural areas and was left with the very North and very South of the region. While the results look quite a bit like most English results Plaid, who were lowering expectations long before the results were in, actually gained a seat if not votes managing to benefit during an election that was pretty much about the main two parties.

I'll look at the Irish bit of the election separately as it's interesting but the landscape seems very different.

The overwhelming theme of the election though, perhaps unsurprisingly was who is going to be the largest party. Even the Lib Dems found themselves squeezed in that vice and although people were very open to the idea that the two largest parties are a bit bloody useless last Thursday was certainly about them and nobody else.

The Tories may have got most votes, but their election was not convincing with large parts of the country still a foreign country to them. Of all the parties it is probably Labour who performed the best. This election was always going to be that of the condemned for them - but the scale of their defeat was nowhere near as heavy as it could have been.


Plot Tracer said...

Good assessment. I predict the Scottish situation will change next year in the Scottish Elections, which will become much more of a Labour/SNP battle, with the Lib Dems crashing.

A wee look at the coalition here :

Douglas Coker said...

Hi Jim

Re Outer London - have a look at the Enfield result. Decisive Lab gain from Con.


Errmmm!! Enfield!

Jim Jepps said...

So Enfield North and Enfield Southgate are both Tory and saw Labour lose ground and The Conservatives increase their majorities.

On Enfield council Labour won seven seats from the Tories and two from the 'others'(?) - that's really interesting.

How would you explain this Douglas? Are there any other constituencies within the boundaries of the council borough?