Sunday, 9 May 2010

Post election thoughts

Where do I begin? So much to discuss!

Firstly I'm going to start by 'bigging myself up' by saying I predicted this election result way back in January of this year. You can read my prediction here.

So we got the hung parliament everyone was predicting. The problem is, it's the worst case scenario hung parliament possible.

Everyone's a loser in this election somehow. The result is pure grid lock for all the main parties, and it's going to be a few more days before any deal is sorted out.

I've got so much to discuss, I'm going to break things down into a summary before going into more detail on the results.

Hung Parliament

The people have spoken and have roughly said, they're not convinced by anyone. What we do know is that most people don't want Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. People like the look of the Tories but aren't totally convinced. We like Nick Clegg, but unfortunately aren't sure about some of the Lib Dems policies.

What should happen next?

For me the Conservatives need to make a deal with the Lib Dems to form a government. There's no way the Lib Dems can do a deal with Labour, it would be a government of losers and if that was to happen would potentially alienate the electorate further.

Electoral reform

This election result is deeply unsatisfactory on so many levels and has highlighted the weaknesses of our First Past the Post system. There's no doubt that electoral reform needs to be discussed further, and I'd actually like to see a referendum on the issue at some point during the next couple of years.

Voters denied the chance to vote.

Watching clips of thousands of people denied the chance to vote because polling stations couldn't deal with the increase in the turn out was embarrassing.

We're meant to be one of the world's leading democracies. At this rate we'll soon have UN electoral inspectors from places like Kenya coming over to observe and give us tips on how to run things.

BNP Crushed in Barking.

Here's a controversial statement: Has the threat of the BNP been exaggerated? The reason I ask is that the party were well and truly humiliated in their strong hold of Barking, losing all their seats on the council, and Nick Griffin being beaten into third place as a parliamentary candidate.

So what we do know from the election is that voters (including myself) don't want Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. It's time for him to exit stage left.

He's essentially become a caretaker PM waiting for the other parties to form a government. Brown's problem is that he's such a complicated and flawed character. I've lost count of the number of times I've read stuff about him, where he's shown to be aggressive, angry, bullying of other people and ruthlessly ambitious.

Clearly many of these traits have enabled him to be a success in politics, but they're also traits that have hindered his ability to be a successful and popular PM.

As for the other two parties, The Tories are the main winners but you have to ask the question; with an unpopular PM a struggling economy, and huge financial backing, winning a majority should have been the minimum requirement? They couldn't even do that!

The biggest loser has to be Nick Clegg. I couldn't believe the exit polls at at 10:00 on Thursday night predicting the party would end up on 57 seats! I seriously thought they'd get between 70 - 80.

The Lib Dems problem is that people liked Nick Clegg, but when faced with real scrutiny over their policies people thought 'no not sure about that'. I admit myself, their policies on Trident worried me, and their stance on immigration and Europe seemed wishy whashy.

In the last few days I've thought to myself how I might approach things if I was from one of the three main parties. This is what I'd do.

If I was the Conservatives, I'd look to form a deal with the Lib Dems, but if it doesn't come off then they should govern as a minority government.

As a minority it's going to be tough to get through all their legalisation, but they'll probably just have to have an election in the next 18 months and try to gain a working majority.

With the Lib Dems I'm still surprised they did so badly, but they've still ended up in a once in a lifetime opportunity. No matter how unpleasant it might be for some of their grass root members, they have an opportunity of being in government. They shouldn't pass this up lightly.

If they form some sort of formal coalition it gives them the opportunity of showing the country that they can act responsibly when given real political power. In the long run this would be better for them. If they perform well it will help their case for electoral reform.

Finally with Labour, they need to accept defeat. To be fair I think many in the party do accept this, there's just the stumbling block of Gordon Brown. Labour should be grateful, the election defeat although heavy could have been a lot worse.

They're still in relatively good health for them to come back sooner rather than later. I'm convinced they could still have emerged as the biggest party had Gordon Brown not been PM.

All talk of a Lib/Lab coalition is ridiculous, together they're still short of the 326 seats needed for a majority. They'd have to join forces with some of the smaller national parties like the SNP and Plaid Cymru the Welsh Nationals.

This would be like some sort of hideous Frankenstein's monster of a government! It wouldn't last long, and at the next election would probably result in a crushing landslide victory for the Conservatives.

Labour need to go away into opposition, regroup, develop some new policies and most of all find a new leader. Most likely, one of the two Milliband brothers. Everyone thinks it'll be David, but don't rule out Ed.

Under a new leadership they should be in a strong position to fight any election that may be called in the next two years.



Electoral reform

I'd really like to see a referendum on this subject at some point, but we need to have a proper discussion on reform and the public need to be appropriately informed on all the pros and cons on the various forms of Proportional Representation. I'm going to discuss PR at some point in a later blog, but our present First Past the Post system is beginning to seem outdated, and for many is unfair.

In my constituency of West Ham, my vote doesn't really count for much, I'm not saying its a wasted vote, but Labour has such a huge majority, the sitting MP has a job for life.

I've now voted in four elections, and I reckon that in only two elections has my vote really been of significance in the sense that you couldn't confidently predict who the winner would be.



Voters who couldn't vote

This was really shocking, and I really feel for those people who couldn't vote. I've voted in every single election both local and national since 1997. There's only been one occasion where I didn't vote, and that was because I wasn't on the electoral register which I only found out when I arrived at the polling station for a local election.

I have to say I was pretty upset about it. I felt like I didn't have a voice, that I couldn't make my feelings known. I can imagine this is how many people felt on Thursday night.

It seems many councils have made cut backs over the years, and have only been prepared to deal with elections where around 60% of the registered electorate were likely to vote. Clearly on Thursday numbers were up by maybe 10 - 15% in some places meaning some polling stations couldn't cope.

Jenny Watson from the Electoral Commission has said that this situation must never happen again. We shouldn't underestimate the time, effort and resources needed to run a national election successfully.



BNP crushed in Barking

As I said earlier, for a while now I've wondered whether the real threat of the BNP has been exaggerated by some people. I know this might be a controversial statement to make, but I was one of those people who argued that they should be on shows like Question Time, as people would have the chance to question and challenge their views directly.

If you look closely at their policies, you quickly begin to realise that they're a disorganised shambolic little party. I have a theory that maybe the increased media scrutiny of the party and higher profile of Nick Griffin meant people had a better understanding of who the BNP really are and what they're all about.

It's almost the Nick Clegg affect. The Lib Dems had much greater media coverage this election than before, but with that focus people looked harder at their policies some of those like immigration, trident and Europe didn't appeal to the electorate.

I think the same thing happened with the BNP, greater focus exposed them for what they really are, not dangerous fascists, but a shambolic irrelevant party.



The fallout from the election is going to run and run for at least another week or so. I'll end this post here and discuss further developments later in the week.


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