Left Out Liberal

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

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Analysis: Overall

Welcome to my General Election post-mortem. Here I will introduce the phases in my analysis that I will conduct.

Firstly, I will cover a quick reaction to the general picture of this election. This is part of this post.

I will then move on to examine the impact of the election for all three major parties, Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats.

I will also look at the wildly differential turnout and discuss whether or not tactical voting played an impact in this election.

Finally, I will conclude with a look at prospects for 2009/2010.

These six posts have been published in reverse so they read like a straight essay with sections. I didn't write them backwards as it would look if I published them one after the other... so I have altered the dates to improve its readability. Your comments will be very much appreciated, either as responses to the posts, or even in e-mail. Bear in mind that most of this is my opinion, so I could be wrong...


2005's General Election was a fascinating result, despite a rather tired campaign. For those who stayed up overnight hoping that Blair's majority would be pegged significantly, most of us are now pretty pleased at the outcome. It was impressive that despite the inherent dangers of the First Past The Post (FPTP) system in producing rather disproportionate results, the electorate still managed to get exactly what they wanted.

All along, most people wanted Blair back... but they wanted it with a reduced majority. Labour spent months telling us that this was not possible and that we shouldn't "play games" with the electoral system. We can't get Labour in any other manner. It is mega majority, or no majority. If we want Labour, we have to vote for them.

And yet, that's exactly what we didn't do. 62.3% of those who turned out to vote didn't vote for Blair (excluding the four parties of Northern Ireland). We knew the dangers of FPTP, but by educating the electorate and making everyone aware of the situation their constituency was in, people were able to cast a more thoughtful vote than before to deliver exactly what was needed.

Of course, this has happened in the past. Parties never stop targetting constituencies very specifically. But now the electorate had access to the internet in a much wider manner than before, they were able to assess the situation for themselves, rather than rely on those dodgy graphs on Lib Dem leaflets that always manage to sum up the battle as "Only the Lib Dems can win here!". Even in seats that seemed quite a distant possibility, they were able to realise that the lie put about by Labour of "Vote Lib Dem get Michael Howard as PM" was exactly that, a lie. Sure there were seats where voting Lib Dem in this election actually has brought about a Lib Dem MP... but there was never a danger of a Tory government.

We the electorate were prepared to take a risk. We had faith the Tories were flatlining at 33% and in the end they went below that to just over 32%. Given that, it was safe to vote Lib Dem, thus sending a message to Labour that we don't want their mega majority, and that we are prepared to accept Conservative MPs in certain seats in order to achieve less dominance.

But the big surprise of the night was just how much people were prepared to vote Lib Dem. Wild, massive swings from Labour to the Lib Dems happened across the country... except surprisingly in seats were the Conservatives were challenging the Lib Dems or vice versa. The tide rose so high that it swept away dead wood in certain inner city constituencies who thought they were onto a cushy number. If only it had swept further to give some more Labour backbenchers a fright...

And that is the problem. It didn't. Yet, it could very easily have. Many people were prepared to vote Lib Dem, but there is no doubt that there were more. And what's even more annoying is the fact that had they done so - and perhaps they were fooled by Peter Hain's "back door" theory - given the Tory share of 32%, there was no danger of electing a Tory government. In fact, there would have come a point with an even greater swing where voting Lib Dem would have paid off great dividends.

Meanwhile, Labour MPs were spectacularly unseated. But the extra interesting part is that the gains were confined to very particular parts of the country. So particular, in fact, that the Tories could have a legitimacy problem by the next election if they do not broaden their support.

Nevertheless, the result came. We saw it and it was good. But it could have been so much better. A hung Parliament was a very distinct possibility. The average Labour to Lib Dem swing was 5%, but if this had been doubled Charles Clarke, Ruth Kelly and Phil Woolas would now be drawing the dole. Yet, in many constituencies it was doubled, even tripled.

So what gives? Why was this election such a mess? That's what I'm hoping to look at in my further posts. Read on, fair visitor!

Analysis of Labour's election result
Analysis of the Conservatives' election result
Analysis of the Lib Dems' election result
Assessment of tactical voting and turnout in this election
Looking to the future for politics in this country


At 1:21 am, May 13, 2005, Blogger CuriousHamster said...

Hi Eddie, totally off topic but you've been memed. Follow me...


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