What can we learn from the 2015 British General Election?

Robert Henderson

1. Less than 37% of votes cast (and less than 25% of registered voters) can give you a majority in the House of Commons.

2. The Conservative performance in terms of Commons seats was better than it looks because the size of UK constituencies varies considerably and on average it takes substantially more votes to elect Conservative MPs than it does a Labour MP in England or MPs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Had the boundary changes put forward in 2013 to produce more equal sized constituencies not been blocked by the LibDems, this would have favoured the Tories significantly, perhaps giving them another 20 seats.

3. The reason for the failure of the pollsters to come anywhere near to the election result is simple: they rely on telephone and online polls. Both routinely result in samples which are not representative of the population. Telephone polls are undermined by the large number of people who are unwilling to answer questions and the time of day when calls are made, for example, if you ring during the day you are likely to get a different sample than if you ring in the evening. Online polls rely on (1) people being online and moderately IT savvy – which excludes many people – and (2) what are in effect focus groups formed of people who put themselves forward (which will mean they are unrepresentative of the general population regardless of the attempt to choose them in the context of their backgrounds ) who are questioned regularly( which precludes even the basic shuffling of the sample pack created every time an entirely new sample is questioned.)

The exit poll came much closer to the actual result because

(1) it was a very large sample (20,000), (2) people were interviewed face to face and (3) the people interviewed had actually voted. The pollsters need to go back to face to face interviewing and more rigorous selection of polling samples.

4. The Conservative Party has a formal Commons majority of 12. Sinn Fein have four seats and if they follow their normal practice of not taking up those seats the majority would effectively be 16. Add in the Speaker of the House who does not vote except when a vote is tied, and the majority is effectively 17 (The Commons has 650 MPs. Deduct the Sinn Fein MPs and the Speaker and a practical majority is 323. The Tories have 331 seats. That leaves 314 opposition MPs. The practical majority is 17). Such a majority is just about a working one.

5.Even a twelve seat majority is functional because though it may look fragile, in practice all opposition MPs will not vote against the government on many issues. This can be for ideological reasons (they broadly agree with the legislation), they think voting against a Bill would play badly with the public or the simple fact that the Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and many opposition English seat MPs have constituencies which are hundreds of miles away from London. Tory seats tend to be much nearer London than opposition ones. Moreover, if the government wants to play difficult , they can always refuse to allow pairing of MPs (MPs of different parties agree not to vote, thus cancelling one another’s votes out) . That would put a burden on their own MPs, but much less of a one than that placed on opposition MPs, because, as already explained, Tory MPs on average have much less distance to travel to and from their constituencies than do opposition MPs.

6. The size of the Conservative majority will give their backbenchers far more leverage on the government. This will be healthy because it will re-assert the power of the Commons over the executive .

7. In the first couple of years much of the major legislation going through will command widespread support amongst Conservative MPs. However, if the Cabinet starts backtracking on their manifesto promises the Tory backbenchers will want to know the reason why and will rebel if pushed too hard in a direction they do not wish to go. (Cameron was rash enough at the first Cabinet meeting of the new government to promise that the Tory manifesto would be implemented in full – go in at 11.32 am ).

8. Because of the small majority, the Conservative government should push through as soon as possible all their most important legislation. This includes the EU referendum , English votes for English laws, the delayed boundary changes and the repeal of the Human Rights Act. The House of Lords can delay passing a Commons Bill for about a year. After that the government can force it through using the Parliament Act.

9. The government would be well advised to repeal the Fixed term Parliaments Act, not least because the small majority is likely to diminish before the end of the Parliament and even if it does not it will be very difficult for the government party to maintain its discipline for five years. The danger is a repeat of the last years of the Major government which saw constant Tory infighting and precious little being done in the last eighteen months or so.

10. The election told us that both the Tories and Labour are parties devoid of principle. Thatcher hollowed out the Tory Party converting it from a party which stood broadly for the national interest, strong on defence, protectionist where strategic industries such as coal were concerned , with its natural paternalism of the past sublimated into an acceptance of the welfare state. Blair cut out the central moral purpose of the Labour Party (to protect the poor and unfortunate) and replaced it with a toxic hybrid of Thatcherism with its the mania for privatisation both wholesale and piecemeal and greatly increased state spending, much of which was spent to no good purpose and whose justification seemed to be no more than the spending of the money for its own sake to show how “caring” NuLabour were.

11. While the SNP remain strong in Scotland Labour has no realistic chance of achieving an overall majority in the Commons.

12. For the foreseeable future Labour are likely to form a coalition government only with the SNP.

13. Labour primarily did poorly because they have for long neglected the white working class (which was the natural bedrock of their support)

and instead pandered to a motley collection of minority interest groups, most notably racial and ethnic minorities. Because they had split their support they ended up trying to produce a message which would appeal to wildly disparate groups. Their “core vote” strategy, which involved appealing to around a third of voters and then either adding a few more votes to gain a majority or at worst to be the dominant partner in a left of centre coalition, was both contemptible in a democracy because it ignored the interests of the majority and as it turned out a hideous failure.

14. If the Labour Party had been in a position to form a coalition they would have found themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea. If they had been able to form a majority in coalition with the SNP that would have finished them as an English party: if they refused to form such a coalition they would have been ruined in Scotland and damaged them in Wales on the grounds of having let in the Tories.

15. SNP political leverage within the House of Commons can only exist while there is no English Parliament. Create an English Parliament and the SNP are emasculated . The popularity of the SNP in Scotland is unlikely to last because there is growing dissatisfaction in Scotland at both its economic mismanagement and its increasingly authoritarian behaviour. Time is the enemy of the SNP as the reality of what they have created comes to fruition.

16. It has been claimed by many political commentators that a Tory government was just what the SNP wanted because it would fan the flames of Scottish nationalism and bogus victimhood. If this was the reasoning of the SNP leadership it was extremely stupid because it has rendered their party impotent at Westminster .

The intelligent strategy for Sturgeon to have followed before the election would have been to say that the SNP would not have any formal relationship, whether coalition or a looser agreement , but would support any legislation which fitted in with SNP policies. There should have been no ruling out of any agreement with anyone, no demonising of any other Westminster Party, no threatening of England, no trying to portray the SNP as forcing left facing policies on England as being for England’s good . Had she done that the Tories might well not have been able to form a government off their own bat. Instead Sturgeon handed the Tories a victory which, if the Party was run by someone willing to look to England’s interests, would have left the SNP to twist impotently in the wind .

17. Wales and Northern Ireland have no serious wish to become independent, not least because they are economic basket cases which are heavily dependent on English taxpayers’ money.

18. This was a profoundly dishonest election. There was a disturbing lack of debate by the major parties on important policy areas with foreign policy, defence, energy , food self-sufficiency and the imbalanced devolution settlement which grossly disadvantages England being barely addressed. Other major issues, for example immigration and the still massive deficit in the UK’s public finances were mentioned often enough, but without any proposals being put forward which would plausibly tackle the problems involved. Apart from Ukip, parties were either for open borders (The Greens) or restricted to promises to cut benefits for immigrants and operate a points system to ensure only skilled migrants came.( Even if such things could be done, there would not necessarily be a reduction in migrants because no upper limit was put on numbers). Proposals for increased government spending were either not costed at all or relied on fantasy money coming from “efficiency savings” within public service or absurdly optimistic forecasts of how the British economy would grow.

The housing crisis is the prime toxin in not only the British economy but also British society. The absurd cost of both renting and buying is reducing large parts of the population (and particularly those under 35 who have never got on the housing ladder) to a miserable, insecure existence. All the major parties made promises of building hundreds of thousands of new houses a year without meaningfully explaining where the money was coming from. Moreover, much of what they did promise – 200,00 to -300,000 new flats and houses a year – will inevitably be taken by immigrants because no major party could say these homes would be reserved for native Britons because no major party is willing to pull out of the EU. Net immigration is currently running at around 300,00 a year . If it continues at that level new immigrants will want at least 100,000 homes a year. This fact went unmentioned by the Tories, Labour and the LIbDems. To put the cherry on the housing mess, the Tories attempted to bribe, probably successfully, 2.5 million housing association tenants with an extension of the Right-to-Buy to such properties (this gives substantial discounts on the market price of a property). This will reduce the number properties which people can actually afford to rent in places such as London even further.

19. Political correctness still has a terrible hold on those permitted a public voice. The most notable occasion was probably when the Ukip leader Nigel Farage had the courage in one of the leaders’ debates to raise the question of foreign HIV sufferers coming to Britain for very expensive and ongoing treatment on the NHS. He was howled at by the studio audience and berated by other politicians taking part as though he had placed himself beyond the Pale.
The fact that Ukip are routinely described as “right-wing” and not infrequently “far right” by both mainstream politicians and the mainstream media nicely demonstrates the dominance of politically correct thinking amongst those given the privilege of a public voice. Apart from their aim to leave the EU, Ukip’s policies are not radically different from those espoused by the Tories and Labour over the past twenty-five years. That applies even to immigration, because neither the Tories or Labour has ever publicly advocated an open door policy.

20. The party for adolescents, the LibDems, will now be able to return to their pre-Thatcher role of being able to all fit into a telephone box at the same time.

21. The party for the pre-pubescent, the Greens, can be safely left until the next election dreaming up ever more ever more febrile fantasies of what the electorate wants. They will have some work to put in because they set the bar very high in this election with their plea for open borders and increased foreign aid.


3 thoughts on “What can we learn from the 2015 British General Election?

  1. In short the only real enemies the Tories (or BlueLabour as I prefer) have left is themselves and the mess they and previous political showers have made. It will, I am sure, prove quite deadly to them.

  2. The Conservative leadership may be unable to push through their sham referendum even if they try. This is because many of the Tory Party’s own back benchers will not vote for it; they do not want to risk an exit.

    The House of Lords is stuffed full of pro-EU integrationists many on its payroll. They are likely o block any referendum bill.

    On normal issues the government can also count on support from the large number of its MPs which are in government and will not want to be sacked. There is also a large number of aspirant back benchers who will not rock the boat because of hopes for promotion.

    • I am afraid you’re right; but at least it buys a little more time in which lots of statist structures will become untenable and may collapse, specially inside the EU itself.

      Who knows? The EU may implode before we leave it, and this may be better for us in Britain; for it will take-down at least a portion of our dangerous Ruling-Class-Buggers with it as it tumbles.

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