More losers than winners
The British people have spoken (or at least voted) and I don’t imagine too many members of the political class are happy with the results. The Labour government got back in, but with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote and a lot more vigour among opponents than supporters, it’s not a great result. In particular, given the weakness of the Opposition, the result is a pretty clear rejection of Tony Blair and his approach to politics.
For the Tories, the outcome is even worse. They only got 33 per cent of the vote, against a combined 60 per cent for Labour and the Lib Dems, parties which have broadly similar centre-left views. Barring a cataclysmic change in the electoral landscape, there’s no serious prospect that they can win in five years time.
The Lib Dems did better than most expected, but still failed to break out of third party status, even with the Iraq issue going for them. Their best hope is that Labour’s position will weaken to the point where they are forced into democratic reform of the electoral system, either PR or preferential voting.
Two individuals look to be winners. Gordon Brown now seems certain to replace Blair as PM. Blair’s poor performance and manifest unpopularity make it virtually impossible that he can back out of his promise to retire, and he’s likely to do so sooner rather than later. For Brown, the main risk is that the economy will go sour – it has many of the same vulnerabilities as Australia’s.
The other big winner is George Galloway, former Labour MP and apologist for Saddam, who defeated left-wing Labour MP Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow. While I’d normally welcome any indication of opposition to the Iraq war, I have to say that this is a deplorable result. I don’t believe everything I read about Galloway, but his own public actions are enough to condemn him.
I forgot to add one particularly welcome loser. Lynton Crosby has demolished his (largely self-generated) reputation as a Machiavellian genius, and succeeded in reattaching the ‘nasty party’ label to the Tories in a way that will be very difficult for them to shake off.