After a truly alien peak in pubic sympathy following from Clegg’s performance in the X-factor presidentialism that were the ‘debates’, the Lib Dems came crashing back down to reality on Thursday night when they realised this would count for nought in terms of electoral success and it must have been truly painful for them to discover that they had actually managed to pull off a net loss of seats. They their woes have only just begun.
I have always touted my personal hypothesis that the Lib Dems achieving their wish of a hung Parliament putting them in a kingmaker position would be the death of the party. The party would be faced with the need to actually make a choice, and whichever choice they made would alienate one section of the party or another. It seems that the Lib Dem leadership has made its choice, they will prop up a Tory government. Even worse, it seems they will do so without electoral reform even being a condition.
I’m sure that over the coming weeks many commentators will suggests that this comprises a stab in the back forthe grassroots by the party leadership, this is nonsense – they were stabbed in the front. If there was one thing the Clegg made clear before the election it was that he would favour the Tories as coalition parters (with the justification, disingenuous or not, that they have the most seats) and that he would place the ‘national interest’ of ‘stable government’ first and not hold the country to ransom over proportional representation. Perhaps the only thing mildly surprising about this event is that a politician has actually stuck to his promises.
Even so, both party activists and most certainly their general support base isn’t going to take the news universally well. How will Scotland react to the Liberals imposing a Tory Government on them? It’s probably safe to conclude that it won’t be particularly positive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few Scottish Liberals cross the house (either to Labour or even the SNP) before a Lib Dem wipeout sweeps the highlands.
Okay, maybe not, but with any luck we can take back some deposits.
Live updates of the results in constituencies which are being contested by candidates of the Communist Party, the Labour Representation Committee and others of interest. Results throughout the night.
Cardiff South and Penarth – Robert Griffiths 0.4%
Croydon North – Ben Stevenson 03%
Glasgow North West – Marc Livingstone 0.5%
Newcastle East – Martine Levy 0.5% (-0.1)
North Devon – Gerry Sables 0.2%
Sheffield South East – Steve Andrew 0.3%
Labour Representation Committee
Ashton-under-Lyne – David Heyes WIN 48.4 (-10.1)
Batley and Spen – Mike Wood WIN 41.5% (-3.7)
Blyth Valley – Ronnie Campbell WIN 44.5% (-10.5)
Bolsover – Dennis Skinner WIN 50% (-15.2)
Bury St Edmunds – Kevin Hind LOSE 16.6% (-10.7) [Conservative HOLD]
Clwyd West – Donna Hutton LOSE 24.7% (-11.3) [Conservative HOLD]
Dundee East – Katrina Murray LOSE 33.9% (2.9%) [SNP HOLD]
Gower – Martin Caton WIN 38.4% (-4.0)
Great Grimsby – Austin Mitchell WIN 32.7% (-14.4)
Hackney North and Stoke Newington – Diane Abbott WIN 54.9% (+6.0)
Halifax – Linda Riordan WIN 37.4% (-4.5)
Hayes and Harlington – John McDonnell WIN 54.6% (-1.6)
Isle of Wight – Mark Chiverton LOSE 11.6% (-5.6%)
Islington North – Jeremy Corbyn WIN 54.5% (+3.3)
Kettering – Phil Sawford LOSE 29.9% (-12.7%) [Conservative HOLD]
Leyton and Wanstead – John Cryer 43.6% (-2.2)
Llanelli – Nia Griffith WIN 42.5% (-4.5)
Luton North – Kelvin Hopkins WIN 49.3% (+0.7)
Midlothian – David Hamilton WIN 47% (+1.5)
Newport West – Paul Flynn WIN 41.3% (-3.6)
Oldham West and Royton – Michael Meacher Win 45.5% (-2.9)
North Ayrshire and Arran – Katy Clark WIN 47.4% (+3.5)
North West Hampshire – Sarah Evans LOSE 13.7 (-7.7)
Pendle – Gordon Prentice LOSE 30.9% (-6.2)
Rutland and Melton – John Morgan LOSE 14.3 (-10.6)
Stroud – David Drew Lose 38.6 (-1.9) [Conservative GAIN]
Tunbridge Wells – Gary Heather LOSE 10.8% (-9.6) [Conservative HOLD]
Wansbeck – Ian Lavery WIN 45.% (-9.3)
Yeovil – Lee Skevington LOSE 5.2% (-5.3)
Other Seats of Interest
Brighton Pavilion – Caroline Lucas is in with a chance of becoming the Green Party’s first MP, despite going up against Labour left-winger and trade union activist Nancy Platts.
Result: Caroline Lucas wins narrowly for the Green Party.
Coventry North East – Former Militant MP Dave Nellist takes on Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth in the TUSC’s best chance.
Result: Nelist won 3.6% (-1.2). Labour kept the seat.
Carlisle – John Metcalfe, Communist Party member is endorsed by TUSC in a traditional Labour seat which has increasingly been giving the Party electoral trouble.
Result: 0.9% for Metcalfe. Conservative GAIN.
Birmingham Hall Green – Respect Leader Salma Yaqoob is trying to take this seat from Labour in what is her party’s best chance of avoiding fading into obscurity.
Result: Salma lost by nearly 4000 votes to Labour.
Poplar and Limehouse – George Galloway takes on Jim Fitzpatrick in what has developed into a dirty campaign. Honestly, Galloway has plunged off the edge of respectable politics as far as I’m concerned.
Result: Labour HOLD, with George Galloway decreasing Respect’s percentage share in third place.
Bethnal Green and Bow – Abjol Miah is trying to win a Respect hold in George Galloway’s old constituency. This constituency was recently the scene of a confrontation when the (Muslim) Labour Candidate spoke in a mosque (in what allegedly may have been an act of foul play by Respect activists.
Result: Respect beaten down into third place in a Labour GAIN.
Barking – BNP Fuhrer Nick Griffin
Result: Nick Griffin lost with 14.6%. Down 1.7 for the BNP. Labour increased its majority.
Stoke Central – The BNP’s second highest priority seat
Result: Darby gets humiliated with only 7.7%
Buckingham – Nigel Farage (UKIP) is under the mistaken impression his success in the Euros will carry over the the General Election, he’s up against the Speaker.
Result: The Speaker HOLDS and UKIP settles for third as second is taken by a former Tory independent candidate campaigning on local issues (i.e. not Brussels).
Bosworth – Incumbent Tory David Tredinnick is at risk of holding this seat in what would be a true blow for the enlightenment and age of reason.
Result: Tredinnick HOLDs seat with a 0% shift in majority.
Popular wisdom has it that Britain is on the verge of a hung parliament for the first time since the 1970s. Opinion is divided as to whether this is a good or bad thing. The public seem to be rather pleased with this state of affairs while the Tories are horrified at the idea. Clegg the Kingmaker is understandably thrilled while Gordon Brown seems surprisingly open-minded about the idea (although that may be more him resigning himself to the fact that he’ll have to invite the Lib Dems into coalition in order to hang onto power rather than any principled conviction).
What has changed since the last era of hung parliaments is the increase of de facto presidentialism. Prime Ministers have adopted an increasing presidential style over the last few decades, and the media’s obsession with presidentialising our political system has recently culminated in the ongoing Presidential Prime Ministerial debates.
What is peculiar about our emerging Presidency is that it is still wrapped up in a formally parliamentary package. It seems we have all the disadvantages of a US-style presidential system with none of the advantages: a checks and balances system and a directly elected executive. Yet if we enter a period in which hung parliaments become the norm (whether as a result of a stronger third party or from some form of proportional representation) there is a grave threat to representative democracy. A hung parliament will mean that the ability to choose the Government even indirectly will be removed from the electorate entirely and it shall become the exclusive domain of the Liberal Democrat leader. It will become effectively impossible to oust the Government of the Lib Dems choice.
The signing of Early Day Motion 908 by left-wing MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn among others has greatly worried those scientifically-literate left-wing bloggers who count ourselves among their supporters. Early Day Motion 908 called on the Government to disregard a Committee of Science and Technology report critical of homoeopathy (it pointed out that it doesn’t work). This wasn’t the first time for such a surprise. Back in 2007 the same MPs along with Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association and Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society Kelvin Hopkins, of all people, signed Early Day Motion 1240 calling for the positive recognition of NHS homeopathic hospitals.
David Tredinnick is at the vanguard of the anti-science forces in Parliament. The Tory MP is an outspoken supporter of the provision of homoeopathy and psychic healing on the NHS, and is a firm advocate of doctors consulting astrologists when considering treatments. In this general election Tredinnick is being challenged by a newcomer. Science writer Michael Brooks is standing against him as the one and only candidate of the new Science Party.
The Science Party believes that scientific ignorance among MPs is at dangerous levels. They stand for Government decisions on health policy to be based on scientific evidence, improved funding for the sciences and strategic investment to turn the UK into a high-technology economy which can compete on the global stage and oppose public spending on unproven pseudo-science.
While they’re obviously not going to win the seat it would be fantastic if their campaign raises enough publicity to put science policy on the agenda during the next Parliament and brings these concerns greater public attention.