Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The First Cut is nowhere near the Deepest...

Today's Independent shows the sheer scale of debt faced by the new UK government left by their predecessors.


The six small squares in the bottom right corner indicates the inroads made by George Osborne and David Laws in their cuts yesterday.  

Savage?  Aye right... they haven't even started yet.

Looking at that image, I'm really not sure how Labour types can sleep at night.  The Labour party as a "moral crusade" for "social justice"?!  Just don't ask them to balance the books.

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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

(Life) time in opposition

I read with interest Jeff's post yesterday, pointing out the truthfulness in Liam Byrne's joke of a note left to his successor David Laws.  "Sorry, there's no money left" was the gist - and accurate too, as Labour left office having racked up a deficit of £163 BILLION.  

And I agree with Jeff's assessment (to an extent):  "New" (for how much longer?) Labour remains right-of-centre, talking about immigration instead of social justice.  But Labour got whacked not for being right-of-centre, but for trying to be both right-of-centre and left-of-centre at the same time, resulting in a deficit Robert Mugabe would be delighted with.

But Jeff's conclusion - that in order to re-establish themselves Labour must ditch New Labour and return to their left-wing roots - is one that I think history teaches is one which will not be overly successful.

Evidence?  Here:

  • In 1979, Labour lost a general election to the Tories, the first of four consecutive election defeats.  They did so on the back of the "Winter of Discontent" - union strikes on the back of Labour economic policy.

  • In 2010, Labour lost a general election (and who knows if it will be the first of four or more defeats) to a Tory (and Lib Dem) government on the back of an economic mess - partly (if I'm being fair) brought about by Labour economic policy.

  • In 1979, Labour MPs believed that the party needed time in opposition in order to re-establish the party and examine what it stood for.

  • In 2010, Labour MPs and former MPs - including David Blunkett, John Reid, Andy Burnham, Dianne Abbott and Tom Harris and many more besides - argued against a "progressive coalition"/ "coalition of the losers" in favour of the Labour party leaving the Tories to govern and taking time to work out where Labour could go next.

  • In 1983, the general election immediately following 1979, Labour lurched to the left under Micheal Foot, producing a manifesto dubbed "The Longest Suicide Note in History" which saw the party take a drubbing at the polls, polling just 27% of the vote - only 2% ahead of the Alliance.

  • In 2015, Labour will have the opportunity to repeat that mistake.  And it would be a mistake... but what choice do they have?
Obviously this is a simplistic historical comparison, but you get the point.  As I've written before, I think the Tory-Lib Dem government is here for the foreseeable future, for several reasons:  any potential change to AV (or STV) will only increase their potential majority and the fixed term parliaments indicate an intention to work cohesively together for the long term.  But mainly, my reason for seeing this last is the lack of a real alternative.

Look at it this way.  Labour's economic plans have been discredited - who leaves office with a deficit of £163 billion for others to clear up?  (Incidentally, they did the same - though not quite to the same level - at council level in Aberdeen and Edinburgh).  And what charismatic leader do they have coming in to restore faith in the party and their goals?  Ed or David Milliband?  Ed Balls?  Andy Burnham?  Jon Cruddas?!  There's no John Smith or Tony Blair there.

No, Labour were right to prepare for opposition.  It's just not clear that they'll ever need to prepare for government again.

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Saturday, 15 May 2010

Silver lining

I'm not buying the "I'm suffering a Tory government, get me out of here" hysteria, for several reasons, not least that when Labour told us in 1997 that "things can only get better" they did for a while but it's not like 2010 is much more financially stable than 1997.  In short, I'm not as scared as everyone else of the Tories being back in power.

But here's really why I'm not so bothered:

England won the FIFA World Cup in 1966.
England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

In 1966, Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister of a Labour government.
In 2003, Tony Blair was the Prime Minister of a Labour government.

In short, England have won World Cups - but always under a Labour government.  So when Gordon Brown got so spectacularly thumped last Thursday, he didn't just lose an election and the opportunity to govern again.  He lost England the World Cup as well.

So, even for the 84% of Scots who are mad that they didn't vote for the Tories and still got a Tory government, be comforted in the knowledge that it may just save us from 50 years of clips showing Rio Ferdinand parading the FIFA World Cup Trophy (as the new one is called).  Silver lining indeed.

(Incidentally, before the comments come saying I should be supporting England at the tournament, I'll say now - I can't be bothered with the argument.  If they win it, well done.  If they don't, too bad.  I won't really be that bothered either way.  I just wish the media would calm down some).

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Thursday, 13 May 2010

A fixed term problem

A few days ago, I was discussing with Jeff & James the idea that the Tory-Lib Dem coalition (or indeed the Lib-Lab pact, as it could have been at the stage we were talking) might last only a year, and that the next election to the UK Parliament could end up being in May 2011, on the same day as the election to the Scottish Parliament - the first Thursday in May.

Both James and Jeff thought this would be a smart move by whoever was the larger party (if it had been Labour, all the better for them) for they would be able to squeeze the SNP in the Holyrood campaign by making them "irrelevant" to the UK election.  I argued that, given we've had to decouple Holyrood & Council elections because of difficulties interpreting where to put an X and where to put a number, AND ALSO that the boundaries were so different for Holyrood and Westminster elections (with the example of Edinburgh Central for Holyrood split 5 ways for Westminster) would make it near impossible, and that there was no way it could happen.

Well, while that might be the case in 2011 - assuming the Tory-LD government survives - I might not be that sure of my argument now.

The rules of the Scottish Parliament have stipulated from the very beginning that elections will take place on the first Thursday of May every four years from 1999.  That happened in 2003 and 2007, and will happen next year (2011).  It should also occur in 2015.

However, Dave & Nick's new happy band have decided that there will be 5-year fixed term parliaments for the House of Commons.  Given the election last week was on the first Thursday in May, the next election would be schedule for the first Thursday in May 2015.  The same day as the Scottish Parliament (and indeed, Welsh Assembly) election.

So, a problem on the horizon - and an example of how the new UK Government has already not taken into account the devolution dimension of UK politics.

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The future is orange (and blue)

As a follow up to my post a couple of days ago discussing how difficult the decision to take government office for the first time is, as well as yesterday's post analysing what the Lib Dems got out of the coalition agreement, I had a thought.

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth across the UK, from the "progressive left" to the not so progressive (or left, for that matter) Labour party, from disgruntled Lib Dems unhappy with the "coalition for change" and, well, pretty much the whole of Scotland - who categorically did not vote for the Tories.  Each have valid concerns about this "frightening" new form of government.

The "progressive left" argue that the majority of the electorate really voted for them - and still got lumped with a Tory-led government.  Well, maybe if the "progressive left" were one party instead of seven, there may be a case.  Labourites are mad because, although they got thumped in the election, the Tories didn't win outright but the Lib Dems picked them anyway - it's almost like they got ditched for what they see as an uglier member of the opposite sex - and are incredibly bitter about it.  Disgruntled Lib Dems are, well, disgruntled - they didn't vote for a Tory government either, but they've got some of their own stuff in there... though it could be interesting to see how much of it passes.  And then there's Scotland who, granted, did not vote Tory. But until Scotland is independent, a UK government with little mandate in Scotland is something that will have to be suffered from time to time.  Just think how England would have felt if Labour had managed to form a coalition - the Tories managed a majority of English seats.  So yes, it's unfair - but it's the way the system works.  Scottish Labour MPs may need to realise this sooner rather than later.

But, I digress.  There's something more important that has struck me.  It may not matter how annoyed people are at the moment - and the wailing and gnashing of teeth may continue for some time yet.  And then when it is finished, it may continue even longer.  And though yesterday I was picking holes and arguing, perhaps harshly (and I did say that at the time) that the Lib Dems were only in it for the office jobs, I think this could be a long-term thing, for two reasons.

Firstly, the five year fixed-term parliaments.  This is an indication that the coalition is in it for the long-haul.  Fixed-term parliaments are much fairer - it means the election is not called when the sitting PM thinks he can win, and for this reason there is no real objection.  But it is an indication that the Tories & Lib Dems are looking long-term - for a five-year term of office at least.  Secondly, the proposal to change a vote of no confidence from a simple majority to 55% of the Commons voting in favour - which is more controversial (see Mr Harris this morning for a scathing post on the subject) but not less indicative of a government set on working together for the long term.

Together, these two changes to the Commons set-up - plus the potential for reform to the House of Lords, incorporating a PR electoral system for all members in a House that currently also has a Tory-Liberal/Lib Dem majority - suggest that Labour may be out of office for a considerable period of time.

Now I know I should let the dust settle - the election was only one week ago after all - but look at this the way I am.  Yes, we still have to wait and see how this coalition holds up, how the policies fall, how agreements hold, personality clashes etc etc.  But the plan is that they will still be there heading into the election in 2015.  If they change the electoral system in anyway, it is likely (depending, of course, on how the electorate feel about them) to increase the number of Lib Dems, always maintaining a Tory + Lib Dem majority though unlikely to provide any single party with a majority.  Which means the parties could form an electoral pact, as seen in Germany with the CDU/CSU & FDP, and the SDP & Greens previously - a notion that would have been unthinkable a week ago.

Obviously I'm getting ahead of myself a little.  But there is some logic there - for both parties.  The world will change much in the next five (10?) years.  Tory policy on the EU may soften.  The economy may (hopefully!) recover.  The two parties may find themselves agreeing on more and disagreeing on less.  An agreement to keep both in power - at the expense of Labour - for the foreseeable future would be in both parties interests.

I wonder if that is playing on the mind of any future candidates for the leadership of the Labour party.


UPDATE - I just read Alex Massie of the Spectator on the very issue, and it seems he's equally speculative regarding the future - but paints an equally bleak picture for Labour.

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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Bought & sold for Lib Dem Gold

With the coalition now agreed and the government posts being handed out like sweets, there's some analysis of the Lib Dem position to be made.

Firstly, the list of Cabinet (and sub-Cabinet) posts they have gotten.  Five Cabinet seats and FIFTEEN junior ministerial roles, if rumours are to believed.  Those announced thus far:

Nick Clegg - Deputy Prime Minister
Vince Cable - Business Secretary
Chris Huhne - Energy/ Climate Change Secretary
Danny Alexander - Secretary of State for Scotland
David Laws - Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Plus the junior positions too.

Secondly, policy.  According to the BBC, as part of the deal the Lib Dems have:
  • Secured fixed term parliaments - for 5 and not 4 year terms.
  • Dropped plans for mansion tax.
  • Got Tories to drop changes to inheritance tax.
  • Changes to threshold for income tax in line with LD policy.
But they have also agreed:
  • Not to push to adopt Euro.
  • To accept a referendum on transfer of power to EU.
  • A cap on non-EU immigration.
  • Tory recognition of marriage in tax system.
  • To DROP OPPOSITION to Trident.
  • To accept a referendum on Alternative Vote - a non-proportional electoral system to replace FPTP, a non-proportional electoral system.
As I mentioned yesterday, a decision to take power - particularly for the first time - is a difficult one to take.  Basing it, as Muller & Strom did, on the Policy-Office-Votes triumvirate, there are some conclusions to be drawn.  We can't evaluate it on votes yet, since that will come at the end of the parliamentary term/ fall of the coalition - and the electorate will deliver that judgement.  But from what has emerged of the coalition agreement (policies) marked against the rumoured Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions (office) we can (or at least I can) see a clear winner.

If you asked someone in the immediate aftermath of the TV debates to tell you what the Lib Dems stood for, you'd probably get an answer that resembled "pro-Europe, pro-immigration, pro-political (electoral) reform and anti-Trident". And yet, in the coalition agreement, they've accepted limits on non-EU immigration, a referendum (which would likely respond negatively) to any future transfer of powers upwards to the EU, a referendum on a new electoral system that is no more proportional than the current one and will accept the Tory plan to renew Trident while they drop opposition to it.  Sure, they've got some policy concessions, but those were KEY policies and they've been ditched or watered down.  So, policy considerations for taking office look rather weak.

On the other hand, the Tories were so keen to form a government that they've allowed the Lib Dems to have a large hand in running departments, replacing five Tories who had been shadowing departments in opposition with Lib Dem Cabinet Secretaries and giving plenty of junior portfolios to the Lib Dems.  In other (and perhaps rather harsh) words, the Lib Dems have put the spoils of office ahead of policy concerns.  

If that is indeed how it transpires, how will the electorate respond after five years (or, indeed, five months - however long this lasts!) to these Lib Dem considerations of how to form a coalition government?

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Questions answered: Questions remain

So, it looks will be a Tory-Lib Dem coalition.  David Cameron will be PM.  And Nick Clegg will be Deputy PM, while the Lib Dems have FIVE seats in the Cabinet and another FIFTEEN Ministerial jobs.  Still rumoured, but if so - that's some impressive negotiating by the Lib Dems.

But with the answer to one question (that is, who will be running the country, and the form of government it will take) several more arise.

One of the most prominent:  whither the nations of the UK?  For the first time since devolution was delivered no party that is in government at Westminster will be in power in any of the devolved institutions.  A CON-LD coalition at UK level is added to a LAB-PLAID deal in Cardiff Bay, an SNP minority administration at Holyrood and an all-party power-sharing deal at Stormont.  How will partisan clashes shape the future of devolution in the UK?  And will how will each nation react to what look like huge cuts from Westminster to their funding settlement?

This is particularly relevant for Wales, where the two parties in opposition in Cardiff - a distinct minority in the National Assembly - will now have an effective veto over Legislative Competence Orders from the NAW on devolving further powers, given that they are now the UK government.  This may bring forward the need for a referendum on extending devolution to Wales or it may scupper it entirely.

For Scotland, how will the (yet to be confirmed) appointment of Danny Alexander as Secretary of State impact on Holyrood-Westminster relations?  Previously we talked of the Tories taking the position from their sole Scottish MP David Mundell, but handing it to "Lord" McLetchie.  And it does appear that PM Cameron doesn't think Mundell was up to the job - either personally or due to the fact that the Tories only have one seat in Scotland.  But - here's the kicker - WHY would the Lib Dems accept the position, knowing how unpopular the Tories are in Scotland, and knowing that they will have to defend an unpopular Tory-led government?  Even stranger... why put Alistair Carmichael up for the Scottish "leader" debates then ignore him when you get the corresponding Cabinet seat?

Another, how much has each party compromised in their negotiations?  William Hague says it is "the bulk of the Tory manifesto and the best of the Lib Dem one".  But is it secure?  Can a party who supports more integration into the EU really back a party who is primarily sceptical about Europe?  Can a party who wants an amnesty on EU immigration stay quiet when the coalition puts a cap on these figures?  Can a party resolutely opposed to renewing Trident actually sit on its hands while its coalition partner votes through legislation on that subject?

There are plenty more questions, but this is long enough already.  Where do we go from here?  Time will tell... we will (apparently) have a fixed five year term to see how it pans out.

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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Working with the numbers

Just to put on screen (for my benefit more than anything else) the possible options of an outcome to the election in which we gave no party a majority.

Figures to note:  Conservatives are probably +1 from Thirsk & Malton (which is still to vote) and though Speaker John Bercow has been included in some Tory numbers, he will (likely) be Speaker and the Tories will finish on 307 (probably).  But for the moment, it is 306.  Second, Sinn Fein MPs are unlikely to take their 5 seats, which reduces the majority needed from 326 to 324.

Option 1:  
Conservative minority government
CON - 306 

Opposition:
LAB - 258  LD - 57  DUP - 8  
SNP - 6  PLAID - 3  SDLP - 3  
GREEEN - 1  ALLIANCE - 1
TOTAL - 337

Option 2:
Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government
CON - 306  LD - 57
TOTAL - 363

Opposition:
LAB - 258  DUP - 8  
SNP - 6  PLAID - 3  SDLP - 3  
GREEEN - 1  ALLIANCE - 1
TOTAL - 280

Option 3:
"Progressive Alliance"/ "Coalition of the Losers" government
LAB - 258  LD - 57
TOTAL - 315

Plus SDLP - 3  who probably take Labour whip
Plus ALLIANCE - 1 who probably take Lib Dem whip
TOTAL - 319

Plus support/ agreement not to vote down government from:
SNP - 6  PLAID - 3 GREEEN - 1
TOTAL - 329

Opposition:
CON - 306  DUP - 8
TOTAL - 314

Option 4:
Saying "bugger this, we can't agree - give us something we can work with" and going to the polls again (which may happen sooner rather than later if any of the above agreements come to fruition).

There are obviously other models (confidence and supply) but they seem to have been ruled out now that Gordon Brown has stepped down and the Tories have offered coalition (and, presumably, Cabinet seats) to the Liberal Democrats.

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Who would be Nick Clegg?

And breath!

Well... interesting doesn't begin to cover events since the end of the election.  Tories and Lib Dems speaking to each other from Friday on - Nick Clegg saying he'd speak to the largest party first.  Clegg (apparently) speaking to Labour behind Cameron's back.  Negotiations ongoing (and still ongoing) between the Tories and the Lib Dems.  And then, the Brown bombshell - Clegg speaking to Labour and Brown announcing he'd stand down as PM, start a Labour leadership contest and offering potentially more to the Liberal Democrats than they perhaps would like - in turn, forcing David Cameron to offer the Lib Dems more than he would like to.

What is hilarious tragic to watch is the unedifying spectacle of senior (and not so senior) Conservative and Labour figures wetting their pants about any potential deal.  Tories on most fronts are pissed that they didn't get a majority, and even more pissed than Clegg is considering what they call a "coalition of the losers".  But what they are even more annoyed about is the fact that Nick Clegg has a) been talking to Labour as well and b) has forced the Tories to offer much more - a full coalition deal AND a vote on PR - than they wanted to.  Similarly, some Labour MPs and former Labour MPs are fuming that Labour are considering trying to stay in power over the wishes of the electorate - feeling a) that the party were trounced in the election and b) that any Labour-led government would have to pander to the whims of "minor" parties.

As for the Lib Dems - well, they are in rock and hard place territory.  Decide to work with the Tories, and they are pilloried - and will be whacked by the electorate at the next election for supporting a party that did not win a majority.  Work with Labour (in what would still be a minority coalition) and be pilloried for forming a "coalition of losers", propping up a government that was rejected by 70% of the electorate - and they will be whacked by the electorate next time out.  A third option - to ignore the courting of both Tories and Labour and to sit out government, backing the Tories in votes of confidence as they run a minority government - is equally unappealing, given one of the primary reasons to vote Lib Dem was to put them in a position to influence government, a point that voters would not let them forget if they were to ignore that opportunity.

For me, I think, the Lib Dems are screwed electorally, unless they can get PR not only on the table but through the statute books.  Think about it.  In Scotland the electorate would punish them for joining the Tories in government.  They'd suffer in the likes of Devon & Cornwall (where they are the main competition for the Tories) if they supported Labour.  And if they sat back then no one would listen to them when they said "well, here's what we would do if we got an opportunity in government".  PR gives them an opportunity to get at least a proportional number of seats to their vote, something which would further slide under FPTP if they went into coalition.

I'll be honest - for me this is fascinating territory.  It's the stuff I study, and the idea of the Liberal Democrats facing a decision that would take them into power for the first time is worthy of much further discussion.  If any of you are interested, Kris Deschouwer's book "New Parties in Government - In Power for the First Time" is well worth a look, detailing as it does the decision-making process here.  Obviously, some caveats - it is focused on Europe, where this sort of thing is fairly common, and primarily on Green parties, who tend to be the new parties taking power.  But the decisions are the same.  Equally, Muller & Strom's "Policy, Office or Votes" covers the same ground, but provides a decision triangle of trade-offs:  is the party's interest in taking office, delivering policies or securing votes, and how will the delivery of one or more of the aspects affect the others.  

This is the prism through which I'm looking at the Lib Dem decision.  Personally, I don't have a preference for what they do - I don't buy the "democratic deficit" crap that frightened Tories (and indeed, former Labour ministers Blunkett, Reid & Harris) are spouting in the event of a Lib-Lab pact with an "unelected" PM.  The only way we get an unelected PM is if Lords Mandelson, Adonis or Sugar take over the Labour party, and though I believe they can be stupid, they are not that stupid.  So enough about this unelected PM business.  I also don't buy that because Labour lost the election they don't have a right to form a government.  Talks between the Tories & Lib Dems pretty much stalled.  Memo to Dave:  if you can't get an agreement, they will walk away.  Progressive alliance or coalition of the losers?  It's really up to the electorate.  If it provides a "stable coalition" (and I'm not sold that it will) they will deliver their verdict in four years time.  If not, we may get our say again sooner.

One thing for me is clear - we gave up our right to decide who the government should be when we provided no party with a comprehensive mandate to run the country.  Now we wait until they sort it out - it happens right across Europe.  In the immortal words of Mr Gary Barlow, just have a little patience...

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Monday, 10 May 2010

BBC Interview #2


As a follow up to my pre-election interview with the BBC, Auntie Beeb has interviewed me again for my reaction to the election.  You can read it here, soundbite and all.

"... while this was an election for a United Kingdom government, there is nothing united about the way in which its component countries voted."

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2010 General Election: Analysis

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So, since 2005 we've had a new Prime Minister, a new party leader for each of the three "big" parties.  We've had a Scottish Parliament election which saw the SNP take power at Holyrood and change the complexion of political competition in Scotland.  We've had 3 years of minority government in Scotland, and nationalists also in power in Wales.  We've had a European election which saw the Labour party heavily beaten and the SNP win the vote in Scotland.  And we've had TV debates, a campaign that seemed to be about change.  And what happened?

59 seats out of 59 in Scotland stayed with the party who won them in 2005.

It is difficult to get your head round exactly why this is.  Gordon Brown became a fairly unpopular Prime Minister, the country was in recession under his leadership and arguably partly due to his policies as Chancellor.  And yet, Scotland voted in considerable numbers for him and his party.  Across Scotland, Labour scored 42% of the vote, more than double any other party.  More than 1 million Scots cast their vote for them - a clear indication, if one were needed, that Scotland has cast its face against David Cameron's Conservatives.

That, for me is, I think, they key to this result.  Labour's campaign was, to all intents and purposes, a very negative one.  "If you don't want a Conservative government, vote for us - we're the only ones who can stop it" proclaimed Jim Murphy at almost every opportunity, claiming that the SNP were "irrelevant" to this election while a vote for the Lib Dems would let the Tories in by the back door.  And it worked too - Labour scared people into voting for them, returning 41 out of the 59 Scottish MPs.

The problem for Labour is that their ability to stop a Conservative government from taking office did not rest with their ability to win seats in Scotland.  No, they needed to stop the Tories from winning the marginal constituencies in England.  That they failed to do so has meant that even though voters in Scotland bought that message, it was essentially a false one.  For even if they had won every single one of the 59 Scottish seats, they would still have finished as a smaller party than the Tories - and we'd still be looking at the likelihood of a Conservative government.

So yes, in Scotland, the song remains the same.  But come the next election - whenever that may be - I'm not convinced that we'll be taken in by the same message again.

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Thursday, 6 May 2010

General Election 2010: Liveblog

13:20  The final Scottish result to be announced - Argyll & Bute - maintains the pattern in Scotland by also being a LIB DEM HOLD, making it 59 holds out of 59.  That's it.

06:31  Just to keep this up to date, Orkney & Shetland has just announced, a resounding victory for Alistair Carmichael.  Perhaps the most obvious LIB DEM HOLD in the entire election.  Only Argyll & Bute to go - which will likely be the same.

State of the parties in Scotland:
LAB 41  LD 10  SNP 6  CON 1 (with one to announce).  The SAME result as 2005.

06:05  State of the parties at the moment, with around 120 seats to declare:  

CON 264  LAB 208  LD 40  OTHERS 27...  

Projections put the Tories at 306, with Labour on 262 and Lib Dems 55... which means that even a Lab-LD coalition wouldn't be a majority.  I'll stay with this a little while longer.

06:00  And news which is almost as good. Nick Griffin fails in Barking - Labour hold, increasing majority to 16,000.  Back to Brussels with you.

05:52  I STAYED UP AND SAW HISTORY MADE!  Amazing stuff - Caroline Lucas MEP makes Brighton Pavillion a GREEN GAIN.  Awesome.

05:22  Not much happening at the moment.  Greens fail to take Norwich South but the Lib Dems do, ousting Charles Clarke in the process.  The Tory Gains keep coming in England and Wales... I make it about SIXTY now.

04:55  Labour majority in Edinburgh South goes from 450 last time round to 316 this time.  Tight.  All that money spent on an election, and no bloody changes.

04:50  After a couple of recounts, it looks very much like Edinburgh South is also a LAB HOLD.  I think I can confidently predict NO CHANGES IN SCOTLAND.  Utterly bizarre night here!

04:45  LIB DEM HOLD Ross, Skye & Lochaber.  Charles Kennedy back in.  Just the three left - Edinburgh South, Orkney & Shetland and Argyll & Bute - which won't announce until 12.00noon.

04:36  LAB HOLD Aberdeen North.  Only 4 seats left in Scotland for any to change hands.

Quick trip down south to Redditch, where Jacqui Smith is in trouble.  She's lost the seat to the Tories and looks like she's ready to greet.  Former Home Secretary - GONE.  She won't be claiming porn on the taxpayer any more!

04:22  Malcolm Bruce returned in Gordon - a LIB DEM HOLD.  Looks very like if we're getting a seat changing hands, it will have to be Edinburgh South - and even that doesn't look a guarantee.

04:17  LAB HOLD Ochil & South Perthshire - the SNP's #1 target.  Sizeable majority too.  Majority of 5,000+.  I saw that one coming, and stuck a fiver on Labour at 3/1 today.  Covered the rest of my bets, so even if I get nothing else (still waiting for a Cabinet casualty - and the Tories having less than 300 seats) then I've broken even.

04:14  Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey up next.  Comfortable LIB DEM HOLD.

04:08  West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine:  LIB DEM HOLD.  But not by that much.  Tories put in a big effort here.  Majority is 3,684.  Actually not that tight - I misheard Tory figure as 16,000 instead of 13,000.  Lib Dems down 8% though.

04:05  Dumfries & Galloway announced now... and another LAB HOLD.  Majority of around 7,000.  David Mundell doesn't get a Scottish colleague here.  I hear Ochil stays Labour too... but that is not confirmed yet.

03:55  SNP HOLD Banff & Buchan - the first female SNP MP elected since Annabelle Ewing lost her seat in 2005.  Vote share down in the absence of Salmond.

0352  Hearing Edinburgh South has gone to a second re-count, with Labour ahead by 400 votes.  In the meantime, LAB HOLD Ayrshire North & Arran.

03:47  David Mundell's defence of the sole Tory seat in Scotland... sees him returned with 17,000+ votes.  Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale.  CON HOLD.  Scotland is NOT a Tory-free zone.

03:41  Aberdeen South is a LAB HOLD.  Not even close - another big target for the Lib Dems but they just didn't get close enough.

03:38  LIB DEM HOLD in Berwick, Roxburgh & Selkirk, Michael Moore returned - 22,232 votes cast for him.  Majority of over 5,000.

03:35  Edinburgh West is a LID DEM HOLD.

03:30  LAB HOLD in Ayrshire Central.  And Aberdeen South is just coming.  Big Lib Dem GAIN in Burnley though.

03:20  LAB HOLD my own constituency of Edinburgh North and Leith.  Bit of a surprise, as I though the Lib Dems had done enough to gain it, but the swing wasn't big enough.  Same story across Scotland.

03:15  East Dunbartonshire stays as a LIB DEM HOLD.  Good for Jo Swinson.  Majority of 2,184, but down 4% of the vote.  And Willie Bain, returns from the by-election as a LAB HOLD in Glasgow North-East.  Majority of 15,942.  

Terrific night for Labour in Scotland.  Bad night for SNP, LD and Tories here.  But - a question I'm asking myself now.  IF (and its a big IF) the Tories take power at Westminster on the back of an English majority - where does that leave Scotland - with a massive Scottish Labour presence at Westminster and an SNP Scottish Government.  Divided Britian?  You bet your ass!

03:11  Glasgow North-West is yet another LAB HOLD.  Dull stuff.  No gains yet...

03:08  Chancellor Alastair Darling returned as LAB HOLD Edinburgh South-West.  Rumours that Labour will hold Edinburgh South as well... Lib Dems were confident of gaining that one, but not looking likely now.

02:58  SNP HOLD Moray, returning Angus Robertson - presumably as SNP Westminster leader.  And Tom Harris is back as LAB HOLD Glasgow South.

02:49  LAB HOLD Dunbartonshire West.  LAB HOLD Glasgow South-West.  LAB HOLD Edinburgh East.  No figures... but do they really matter.  We know the story now!

02:40  LAB HOLD East Renfrewshire.  Massive win for Jim Murphy - he got around 25,000 votes.  Massive.  Tories had this down as a target, but they were nowhere.

02:36  SNP HOLD Perth & Perthshire North in the face of a fairly substantial Tory challenge.  Majority of 4,379, so maybe not as close as I thought it was to begin with.  Glasgow North next up - big Lib Dem target... but Ann McKechin holds on for another LAB HOLD.

02:26  "Pants on fire" McGuire gives another LAB HOLD in Stirling - again, not unexpected, but a majority of around 8,000 is huge.  Lab swing from Tories 3.5% - and the turnout at 71%.  Labour getting the vote out, presumably by telling people they can stop the Tories taking power.  LAB HOLD Midlothian.  And LAB HOLD Linlithgow & East Falkirk.  And LAB HOLD Paisley and Renfrewshire North... big holds - but they are losing seats in England.

02:19  Anas Sarwar keeps it in the family, providing a LAB HOLD in Glasgow Central.  Sensing a pattern here...

02:15  Stewart Hosie increases SNP majority in Dundee East in a big SNP HOLD.  The Tories have gained Aberconwy in Wales, maybe significant.  And LAB HOLD Airdrie & Shotts.

02:13  LAB HOLD Cumbernauld & Kilsyth.  LAB HOLD Livingston (an SNP target - and an SNP seat in Holyrood).  A massively bad result for the SNP.  LAB HOLD Paisley and Renfrewshire South.  Dougie Alexander back.

I only had the SNP gaining Livingston and Dundee West, both of which have remained with Labour, by a considerable margin.  Which means, I suspect, that they'll stay on six.

02:06  LAB HOLD Glasgow East (again, having won it in 2005 and lost it in by-election).  John Mason gone.  Margaret Curran becomes Labour's second MSP-MP of the evening.  Massive majority again - no political earthquake here tonight.

02:03  SNP HOLD Angus - big Tory target.  Dunfermline & West Fife, which was won by Labour in 2005 and won by LD in by-election is a classed as a LAB HOLD.  Not sure I thought that would happen.  LD vote sliding in Scotland - what happened to Clegg-mania up here?!

01:58  LAB HOLD Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill, previously safest seat in Britain.  LAB HOLD Falkirk.  I'm sensing a pattern here.

01:53  Laptop crashed so I missed getting some results in.  Recapping:  LAB HOLD East Lothian - a good result given the civil war there.  LAB HOLD Dundee West - by a considerable margin from the SNP, in what was a target seat for the Nats.  LAB HOLD Kilmarnock & Loudoun - Cathy Jamieson MSP now becomes an MP too.  Maybe Salmond will start mocking Labour for the dual-mandate stuff.  Both the latter 2 held by the SNP in Scottish Parliament.

Also, Tom Harris reports Labour look like winning all Glasgow seats - including a whooping for John Mason in Glasgow East.  Not confirmed yet - but good assumption to make.

01:38   SNP HOLD Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles to you and me).  Again, no shocks there.

01:32  LAB HOLD East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow; LAB HOLD Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath; LIB DEM HOLD North East Fife.  No shocks.

01:21  Ynys Mon is a Labour Hold in Wales.  Plaid's challenge falls away there.

01:20  Gordon Brown says he wants to try and form a coalition.  Who wouldn't?  But if the exits are close to being right... he'd need some Nats as well as LD.

01:16  LAB HOLD Motherwell & Wishaw, not a shock there either.  Majority of 16,806.  Lab up 3%, 1% swing from SNP to Labour.

01:09   First Scottish Result: Rutherglen LAB 28,566, SNP 7,564, CON 4,540, LD 5,636, UKIP 665.  As expected.  21,002 majority. Lab up 5%. Swing 1.5% SNP-LAB.  LAB HOLD.  Not much to draw from that I don't think.

01:03  Rumours on Twitter: Labour "officially hold" East Kilbride; Sky have UNCALLED Edinburgh South.  And a proper result - the Tories make their first GAIN of the night in Kingswood, from Labour. Majority of 2445.

00:59  In Wales, Plaid Cymru GAIN Arfon from Labour.

00:54  Allan is blogging too - here.  Missed it earlier - sorry!

00:51  Big story in N.Ireland - First Minister Peter Robinson loses Belfast East to Alliance.  Big shock (kind of) though there was some scandal around.  No real impact on overall UK result I don't think. 

00:45 Sources: "definite" Labour hold in Stirling.

00:30  Give me something to ANALYSE!!!

00:15 There's NOTHING happening.  Time for a nap?

23:55 Better news for Lib Dems - they look like they'll take Labour-held Edinburgh South.  And news from down south - the Greens will "probably" take Brighton Pavillion.

23:50  Lib Dems talking up coalitions now... as are Mandy and Al Jo.  But on the exit poll figures, they don't quite have enough to get over the 326... (ps - I've fixed the big space at the top - finally!)

23:41 I hear from a couple of sources that Labour WILL HOLD Edinburgh North & Leith.  Apparently the Labour vote is hardening up.  Don't want to believe that.

23:28 Lab hold Washington... Obama goes nuts!  But seriously... swing of over 11% to the Tories.  Thing to note though - big boundary changes so figures from 2005 notional to an extent.

23:20 There will be a brief intermission while there is bugger all happening!

On a related note... quelle disastre regarding the old stopping people from voting.  Makes the 2007 Holyrood election look less stupid.

22:55  Unsurprising Labour hold in first seat (Sunderland) but down 12%... and Tory vote up 5,000.  Not sure there's too much to read into it, but they'll try anyway. Long way to go though.  8.4% swing to the Tories!

22:40 Holyrood Patter and J. Arthur MacNumpty will be liveblogging too. Subrosa has a fancy gadget thing for liveblogging too.


22:30 A few other things I'm looking out for (couple of bets on!):

Tories win 250-274 seats (14/1)
Tories win 275-299 seats (7/2)
LD win 90-99 seats (4/1)
UKIP win a seat (7/2)
1 Cabinet Minister loses seat (4/1)
2 Cabinet Ministers lose seat (5/1)
Labour hold Ochil & South Perthshire (3/1).

I wait with baited breath!


22:25 A couple of days ago I predicted this for Scotland:


Labour - 34 seats
Lib Dems - 14 seats
SNP - 8 seats
Conservatives - 3 seats

I actually think that the SNP may not rise above their 6... and the Tories may be lucky if they get their three.  Nevertheless, here's my predicted seat changes:


Aberdeen South - LD gain from LAB
Berwick, Roxburgh & Selkirk - CON gain from LD
Dumfries & Galloway - CON gain from LAB
Dundee West - SNP gain from LAB
Dunfermline & West Fife - LD gain from LAB (from 2005)
Edinburgh North & Leith - LD gain from LAB
Edinburgh South - LD gain from LAB
Glasgow East - LAB gain from SNP (from by-election)
Livingston - SNP gain from LAB

22:15 BBC exit poll: CON 307 LAB 255 LD 59 - Result as Hung Parliament.  Have to say, I think that doesn't really tally with what I think, and my years(!) of experience.

MITB prediction: Con 280ish, Lab 250ish, LD 90ish.


20:45 I'm not really starting blogging until polls close at 10pm, but I saw this on Twitter - a list of when each constituency is likely to announce its result.  Useful for later.  You can see the list here.

Check back later for (much) more analysis of the results.

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Voting may be bad for your health


Well, that's that done.

My participation in the democratic process of a state I don't agree with is over for another 4 or 5 years (or less, depending how badly they screw it up). 

I have to say, being an undecided isn't easy.  Even though I was 90% sure who I was voting for, I still took a full 2 or 3 minutes looking at the paper before I put a cross in a box.  And walking home (which took less time than I spent in the polling booth) I considered what I'd just done.  And felt a little sick in the stomach

Voting is underestimated in its importance.  I mean, yes, people fought battles, people died to allow us to vote freely and fairly - and of course people shouldn't take that lightly - and most don't.  But my point is more about democracy itself.

Churchill said democracy was the worst system, except for all the others that had been tried.  And its true - it is by no means perfect.  Rousseau was not a fan of representative democracy, of people taking an active interest and role in politics only once every four or five years, of instilling their trust in one person to represent their views, to vote on legislation in their place for a period of time until a further plebiscite should take place.

As I reflected on my way home that 62 million (or even 5 million in Scotland) is probably too large for direct democracy, I thought about what I had just done. I had given my vote not to someone whom I believed would vote the way I would on legislation (though, in hindsight, he probably will) nor to someone with whom I identified fully.  No, I'd actually given my vote to someone who, like Churchill and democracy, was the "least worst" candidate. 

And I was disappointed with myself.  Not for my choice - I've agonised over this one for weeks, months even.  I was disappointed with the choice presented to me, the system within which my voice was to be heard (and, ironically, one of the main reasons I voted the way I did).  

The least worst option my choice may have been.  But it was not the best, and that proves to me, without a shadow of a doubt, that reform is needed.

When I got home, I washed my hands.

Read more...

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