Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Analysis: Conservatives Stumble

Those of us well versed in researching and checking to see if things are true before thinking a 66 majority is enough for New Labour to govern effectively will also realise that the Conservatives flatlined this election. In terms of the popular vote, they achieved an extra 0.6%, some of which will be subsumed by the 2% increase in turnout.

So how did they gain so many seats? First of all, it's not "so many" seats. They only gained 31 seats off Labour. The rest of the decline in Labour majority is down to the gains of the Lib Dems and Nationalists. If you look, around 14 of these seats were also only gained by Labour voters switching to the Lib Dems. This is either "tactical unwind" - i.e. traditional Lib Dem voters switching back to their own party after they decide they no longer wish to vote tactically to keep the Tory out, or Labour voters who have decided they want to support the Lib Dems in this election, for whatever reason.

Bear in mind that the Tories also lost three seats, including Solihull which is an immense shock. Parties that are preparing for government shouldn't be losing seats, no matter how few. But they did perform well to defend those that were under severe attack from the Lib Dems decapitation strategy. In fact, they managed to increase majorities significantly in these areas. Perhaps a sign that the Tories have managed to expose the flank of the Lib Dems and could make signficant further gains in future off the Lib Dems continue to be so left-wing. Of course, given how small the Lib Dems are, this is hardly fertile territory for becoming the government.

Other seats were gained with traditional hard graft. Hats off to the Tories, they performed extremely well in certain places. But that in itself is also a problem.

If you look at the electoral map of Britain, you can almost draw a line across it from the Bristol Channel to the Wash. Above this line, the Tories are mostly weak and are in fact weakening. If you look at the results for these regions, the Tory vote bucked the trend and either remained the same or declined in certain parts. It is significant that the only decapitation strategy that worked was in the constituency of Westmorland & Lonsdale, where Tory shadow minister Tim Collins was removed by the Lib Dems. Other decapitation efforts were also in the north, but these cases managed to succeed due to effectively getting out the Tory vote, and the failure of the Lib Dems to convince Labour voters to shift.

But below this imaginary line, the Tories grew above the average trend. The South and South East is slowly becoming very strong areas for Conservative growth. There are now very large numbers of marginals in the South East after this election that will fall with just two or three percent shifts to them. If the Tories strengthen, they will gain a very large number of seats next time. This is a very good omen for their future prospects. The South West, which was once a Lib Dem stronghold, is now home to a very large amount of very marginal Lib-Con seats. Further rises there will also reap dividends.

Another point of significance is that by the next election, England and Wales will see a redrawing of the boundaries. Since the population of this country seems to like conglomerating in the south and south east, there will be many new seats added there. Conversely, seats will disappear from the north as the population begins to decline. This is new fertile territory for the Conservatives; there will be plenty of new seats that will be naturally Blue. This could add 10 or 20 easy victories to the Conservative column without really trying.

But this trend should alarm the Conservatives. Do they really want to be a party for the South and South East? Will such a government not lack legitimacy and credibility? Would that not be embarassing that they cannot find any appeal for those in the North? We aren't exactly a block vote... in fact, we're pretty diverse. But enough of us just cannot see the merit in Tory principles.

The next leader of the Tory party is going to have to crack that nutshell, and not just by appealing to rural people like they always do. Until there are more than a majority of MPs below my imaginary line, they must appeal beyond this base. Economics really aren't everything. We are expecting much more. You can't rely on your immigration policy alone to mop up inner-city votes. Indeed, if this election showed anything it's that if you do that you actually drive up the votes of the BNP in such areas. Well done.

Much as it seems to have pained the Tories in recent years, the voters of Britain are in the centre. To win an election, they have to appeal to them. As a result, we should expect politics in this country to become even more meaningless than the five Conservative slogans we heard all throughout this campaign. This will not help turnout.

The Conservatives have stumbled. The Lib Dems tried to push them over in this election. Yet, by doing so, this seems to have accidently resulted in the Tories doing a magnificent somersault and finishing with a forward roll to finish much further ahead than they started. But however their wins come, they will take them. They now don't need to worry about electoral reform. Nice work again.


At 10:00 am, May 09, 2005, Blogger Captain Kirkham said...

Lib Dem voter here. Proud elector of a Tory MP. No by voting Tory (god forbid) but by voting Lib Dem. And thus saying bye bye to Stephen Twigg. I feel a twinge of sorrow for the man - his victory was the highlight of the 1997 election for me - but I voted with my conscience knowing full well that the result might be a Tory MP. Odd feeling that.

At 7:39 pm, May 09, 2005, Blogger Eddie said...

Totally understandable. It must be good to be responsible for taking down a government minister!

At least you refused to be bullied by Labour's lie about voting Lib Dem and getting a Tory. In a surprising amount of places, voting Lib Dem actually got, or nearly got (with a close 2nd place finish) a Lib Dem MP. It just needs people to be bold.

At 1:47 pm, May 31, 2005, Anonymous David Russell said...

What about a Labour government that forced through top-up-fees (despite their 2001 manifesto: 'we will not introduce 'top-up' fees and have legislated to prevent them') only with the help of MPs whose constituents were unaffected. By the way, I'm not a rabid English nationalist, I'm Scottish myself.


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