GE 2015: “A night is a long time in politics”

Tudor Rickards ‏@Tudortweet
On the first day of hustings the pollsters said to me:
There’s no party with a clear majorityTudor Rickards

One the third day of hustings Grant Shapps said to me:
You can’t believe their pledges but you can believe me

Tudor Rickards @Tudortweet · Apr 21
Nicola Sturgeon named as the most dangerous woman in Britain

Tudor Rickards @Tudortweet · Apr 24
English votes for English voters. The prospects for survival of the United Kingdom declines again.

Tudor Rickards @Tudortweet · May 2
On the last week of hustings the media brought to me
Red Ed derided
Dodgy undecided
Audience one-sided
On the very unbiased BBC

PiratePartyUK-Maria ‏@PiratePUKMaria May 8th
UK electoral system logic: @TheGreenParty got 1 Seat with as many votes as SNP (56 Seats) via @nblanchart Maybe they just counted the ballots wrong can we start again tomorrow?

The twelve hours that changed the British political scene

The General Election campaign took place over five weeks in which the polls stubbornly refused to predict anything but a hung parliament. At precisely 10pm on the 7th May 2015 a comprehensive exit poll announced that the Conservatives would win enough support to be to form a Government. By midnight, widespread disbelief turned to shocked acceptance of the prediction. By midday, Prime Minister Cameron was on his way the Buckingham Palace to announce to The Queen that he would be able to form a new Government unaided by other parties.

I was among those shocked by the unexpectedness of this exit poll, and then by the speed of subsequent events. My intention was to watch for a few hours for a general indication of how events were turning out, and maybe get a clearer idea in the early morning news bulletins.

As it turned out, the exit poll was more or less confirmed by the first few results. I went to bed having made the following notes.

 Exit poll shows big advantage to Conservatives, with likelihood of near enough for a majority. Forecast: Conservatives 316 win just short of Governing with a majority.  This gives Labour 239. Great win for Scottish Nationalists [SNP} sweeping up  58 seats in Scotland.

Doubts immediately cast on the exit polls by Lib Dem Paddy Ashdown and Labour Harriet Harmon, and Alistair Campbell. All say their ‘doorstep’ evidence suggests the earlier polls more accurate.  Ashdown pledges to eat his hat if exit poll is right.  Campbell tops this saying he will eat his kilt.

Further doubts cast by a [U-Gov] poll placing results far closer to the earlier polls.

The first results roll in, from the three Sunderland seats (a local competition was taking place to be the first constitto declare).

First result: Sunderland

Labour hold; immediate blow for Lib Dems,  fewer votes than greens; UKIP above conservatives

With some nuancing,  Psephologist John Curtice says this confirms exit poll claims.

Second result:  Sunderland central

Another Labour hold. Again Lib Dem big losers,  UKIP gain ground.

 Third result:  Final Sunderland seat

Pattern confirmed. Labour win with marginally declining majorities; Great gains by SNP; losses for Lib Dems. UKIP gains but not enough to suggest translation into seats.Midnight.

The exit poll is now confirmed as likely to be better predictor than the hung last eleven traditional polls. The Conservatives will form a Government, although not with the Coalition partners the Lib Dems, but with a smaller right wing party, (DUP of Northern Ireland favoured)

 Six am Friday 8th May

The battle is subsiding. The overnight results suggest that the exit poll was if anything under-estimating the Conservative gains, and the Lib Dem decline. The Conservatives now considered practically certain to form a Government unaided by minor parties.

9.30am

Senior members of the Coalition and the Labour shadow cabinet swept aside, particularly in in the Sturgeon-led landslide in Scotland

Talk is of resignations of leaders of losing parties. Labour’s Ed Miliband, Lib Dem’s Nick Clegg, UKIP’s Nigel Farage are to resign. Clegg narrowly holds his seat in Sheffield with tactical support. Farage loses and announces his resignation as UKIP leader.

Midday

Miliband, Clegg, and Farage gone. David Cameron and wife Samantha head for a meeting with the Queen, returning to No 10 Downing Street to announce his intention to form a new Government.

 What was all that about?

I hesitate to offer any firmed-up perspectives. Consensus seems to be that the electorate in England accepted the Conservative narrative that a vote for labour would risk domination in Westminster by the vibrant forces of the SNP MPs.

That same narrative added to the heady enthusiasm for the SNP in Scotland at the continued perfidy against the non-SNP candidates, which in Scotland was primarily Labour along with a number of Lib Dems.

UKIP were left frustrated with the First Past the Post election system which penalized them in numbers of MPs, as it penalized the Green Party.

Dilemmas

The new government seems to be facing dilemmas. Its ‘red-line’ pledge for a referendum on European membership will be insufficient for its powerful Anti-EU faction. The SNP group will support remaining in Europe (as does Cameron, if he can do so without losing power), but the SNP has the longer-term goal of becoming independent, risking the diminution and even dissolution of the United Kingdom.

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