Monday 11 May 2015

Election 2015: How did we all get it so wrong?

I've had a few days to reflect on last Thursday’s election result and I'm still in a state of shock from last week's result.

Scroll down to my earlier blog last Wednesday and I said this would be an election without winners. How wrong was I! In my defence nobody else predicted the result and there are far more experienced political pundits and pollsters than me who also got it wrong.

The moment the BBC's David Dimbleby announced the exit polls at 10:00 my reaction of: Are you kidding me, was probably echoed across the country. Earlier in the day on my lunch break I decided to place bet on the outcome of the election. Few of the odds on offer really appealed to me except for one. The Conservatives to form a minority government with odds at 9/2. I felt very confident that would be the outcome with the Conservatives winning between 300 - 310 seats. A Conservative majority never ever occurred to me.

Last week I said this would be an election without winners, well clearly the Conservatives won. They won because ultimately David Cameron was viewed as a more credible Prime Minister than Ed Miliband. Secondly, the Conservatives won the argument on the economy.

They've been competent at managing the economy and reducing the budget deficit. Competent isn't exciting or sexy but it doesn't need to be, Labour never managed to convince the electorate they could be trusted.

It's a great personal achievement for David Cameron, he's not universally popular amongst bank-bench Tory MPs and there were many who were unconvinced by him due to his failure to win an outright majority in 2010.

They can't complain now as he's delivered on that front and increased the number of seats and share of the vote, something Margret Thatcher and Tony Blair never achieved. However, just like John Major's unexpected 1992 election victory, Cameron may face problems from troublesome back-bench right-wingers during the next five years.

So what about the losers. I feel sorry for the Lib Dems, I knew they would take a hit but I expected they'd still have at least 30 MPs left - instead they have 8. They've been destroyed and it may take at least 30 years for them to get back to pre-election levels.

I admired Nick Clegg's decision to enter into coalition in 2010 but in hindsight it was a suicide note for the party. I read over the weekend that German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Clegg that the smaller junior partners in coalitions always suffer in elections.

She was right but I do think the Lib Dems deserved better. It would have been too easy to sit on the sidelines being a party of protest, instead they took the risk of having an opportunity to go into government and have some genuine power and influence. Unfortunately their legacy will most likely be that in the event of any future hung parliament, no small party will ever consider going into coalition again. That's understandable but I feel it's a shame in many ways.

And finally we go to the Labour Party.

On Friday I sent a text message to a good friend who's a Labour councillor in South London. I told him the result was an unmitigated disaster for Labour. During the last month Ed Miliband had what I and many people considered was a good campaign. For so long he struggled to convince people that he was a credible candidate to lead the country, but in the last month he seemed to grow in stature and looking at the opinion polls it started to feel that he could actually do this.

Last Thursday's result simply proved that those of us who had our doubts were right all along. Ed Miliband is a decent and principled politician who is in politics for all the right reasons. He genuinely wants to make a difference but he got it wrong, and his vision and view of Britain and what the country needs was roundly rejected.

I will discuss Labour's election defeat in further detail in my next blog but he was the wrong choice for Labour leader and the last five years have been a failed experiment.

The biggest losers: The pollsters

The 1992 election which I remember vividly is seen as the last time the pollsters got their predictions horribly wrong. This election was a complete disaster! I actually feel like I'd been lied to for the past few months, apart from the prediction of the SNP winning most seats in Scotland everything else wrong. Even my favourite political forecaster, the American Nate Silver got it wrong. Can we ever trust them again?

Over the weekend the Times reported that some of Labour's internal polling revealed they were behind the Tories but this was kept quiet. We know about the phenomenon of 'Shy Tories' but did everyone underestimate David Cameron's advantage over Miliband and the fact the Tories were trusted more on the economy? Just those two things should have indicated the the Tories would be ahead of Labour.

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