The most unpredictable General Election ever has finally come to conclusion. It certainly lived up to the hype. Opinion polls from all round the country and different pollsters were vastly off target with their predictions of a too-close-to-call election, which seemed bound to result in another hung Parliament. Those who had pointed to the facts that, as a party the Conservatives enjoyed better ratings on the economy, and David Cameron had a clear advantage over Ed Miliband as a leader, were vindicated on Thursday night.
The BBC’s exit poll at 10p.m. credited the Conservatives with 316 seats, making them clearly the biggest party in Parliament. Even then the pundits refused to believe it, but in the end it was a bolt for the blue that saw the Conservatives sweep to a slim but clear majority. Could it be that the opinion polls which had the Conservatives and Labour equal on 33% drove more Tory voters to the polling booth?
Described as the “sweetest victory” by David Cameron, the Conservatives winning 331 seats and ushering back in a majority government will bring with it a very different style of government to the Coalition which the UK has become accustomed to.
The explosion of SNP MPs in Westminster may also contribute to a radically altered style of government, with David Cameron seemingly acknowledging the importance of Scotland in his first speech as the re-elected Prime Minister.
For Labour, to see the Conservatives as the main party of government gaining seats (+24), while they as the Opposition actually lost 26 will seem inexplicable and unprecedented. The heavy defeat and ensuing resignation of Ed Miliband as party leader will launch a period of serious soul searching. Don’t rule out a return to the centre ground and the ways of Blair over the next five years.
The party that lost out completely was of course the Liberal Democrats. They saw their numbers cut from 57 to just 8 in a severe backlash from the electorate. Household political names such as Vince Cable and Danny Alexander lost their seats as the public delivered, in the words of ex-leader Nick Clegg, a “cruel” and “crushing” verdict, one suspects on the party rather than the individuals.
The election has also re-opened the debate on the need for electoral reform. Strangely, and perhaps as a sign of their new status, it looks like it will not be the Liberal Democrats who lead this debate, although no doubt they will be involved. Rather, the new and growing forces that are UKIP and the Greens will make their voices heard on this issue around the country. This election has delivered perhaps the clearest reminder on the imbalance of FPTP, with UKIP being the third party in votes – roughly 4 million, yet winning only 1 seat, and the SNP gaining 1.5 million votes and 56 seats.
The chapter closes on the 2015 general election, seeing the Tories returned to government in their first majority since 1992, yet there is still more change to come. Elections for the leadership of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats will undoubtedly cause further shifts in UK politics; a swift turnaround in the leadership of UKIP will see them march on, much as before.
An untold element of this election’s dramatic story is that of the 279 local authority elections – check back soon to see how the local political landscape has altered across the UK.