So what did the voters say?

There are three features of the result that I find particularly worrying. The first is once again a largely Eurosceptic country has elected a Parliament with a federalist majority. UKIP played a minor part in again securing this unfortunate outcome by standing against Eurosceptic Conservatives , allowing federalists to point to their tiny vote and no seats to claim the Eurosceptic cause is a small minority one.

The second is the growing split in the politics of England from the politics of other parts of the Union. Scotland elected just one Conservative MP and saw a swing to Labour. Northern Ireland elected no Conserative and Unionist MPs. Even in Wales, where there was a modest Conservative revival, the country remained a Labour stronghold. In a hung Parliament the politics of devolution mean the non English parts of the Union demanding all immunity from public spending reductions as the price of their support for other measures.

The third is the election of a Parliament with an overall majority for putting off tackling the deficit. A majority of MPs in the new Parliament – though a smaller majority than in the old – probably think spending more public money will “sustain recovery” and see no threat from taxing too much, borrowing too much and regulating too much.

This is the bakground to political attempts to find a way of governing. If Conservatives compromise with the Parliamentary majority they will be placed under suspicion by their true supporters. If they refuse to seek a means of governing the country they are letting it down at a time when some important decisons do need taking, whatever the composition of the Commons.

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37 Comments

  1. Matt
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on your result John.

    All the main parties failed to clearly differentiate themselves from each other in terms of policies. Just when we need strong leadership and clear direction we ended up with three parties trying to appeal to everyone and determined not to say anything too controversial for fear of losing a few votes. The result does nothing to restore my confidence in politicians.

    Interesting to note the result of the local elections is so different.

  2. Kevin Peat
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    There is simply no viable Eurosceptic party for us to vote for. If federalists infer from this result that we are a pro European country then they are being dishonest about it.

    Worse. The appointment of our first Green MP will be used as a mandate to press ahead with enviro-taxes.

    So the only choices one had was to support a party in the hope that it has enough sceptics within it … or help to pull the plug on one's country at this economically critical moment by protest voting and letting Labour back in.

  3. tony k
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    It has been said before, but UKIP lost the election for the Conservatives. Look at he Euro elections last year – they came a close second and, while they would never win a domestic election, they have diverted votes. This is entirely Cameron's own fault, since reneging on the referendum promise and sending europhile acolytes to reassure the kommisars he has shown he cannot be trusted.

    I believe another opportunity is in the offing with a reratifcation required to endorse new MEPs. If shilly-shally squirming and verbal gymnastics happen then sod the lot of you.
    This country will get the government it deserves.

  4. APL
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    JR: "UKIP played a minor part in again securing this unfortunate outcome by standing against Eurosceptic Conservatives .."

    To that, I say: Cameron should have kept his 'cast iron guarantee'!

    Straight away another ten seats would fallen to the Conservatives.

    Kevin Peat: "Worse. The appointment of our first Green MP will be used as a mandate to press ahead with enviro-taxes."

    Kevin, don't forget there are at least two Green MPs in parliament now, one the MP for Richmond Park just happens to be pretending to be a conservative.

    • Peter Stroud
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      APL. Yes I am afraid you are completely right about young Zac Goldsmith. Worse still, our leader promised the LibDems their 'green economy.'

  5. Doug
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    John,

    I must say I'm appalled at how my fellow Scots have voted.

    The BBC was careful to note that there could be a constitutional crisis if there were a Conservative government in Westminster and only one Conservative MP in Scotland. That, however, is precisely why there is a Scottish Parliament. If Scottish Labour and the SNP howl about Tory cuts (as they undoubtedly will) they can, of course, remedy this by using Edinburgh's powers to raise income tax in Scotland.

    On the other hand, a LibLab government in Westminster would provoke a true constitutional crisis. In England, the Conservatives hold 296 seats compared with a total of 234 LibLab. All English legislation will have to be forced through by Welsh and Scottish LibLab MPs voting on solely English matters. That is a real constitutional crisis. Do you think Mr Clegg is aware of the crisis he would provoke in England if he refuses to support a UK Conservative administration?

    • Sally C.
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      Doug, You have hit the nail on the head. If Clegg does not do a deal with Cameron and we end up with a LibLab coalition, this will unleash years of pent up anger among English voters and could result in a real push for English independence. How would the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish feel if we were to refuse to allow our tax money to flow freely around the current Union? The result of a LibLab pact could be very ugly indeed.

  6. Stronghold Barricade
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I believe that all the parties refused to discuss just how dire the economy was.

    Even though the news carried events from Greece, and the mutterings from the rest of the PIGS, there appeared to be a "that won't happen to us"

    Plus Labour's job tax was tactically aimed at non-core Labour voters, so all raised revenue wouldn't come directly out of their pockets

    There was much undescribed, and not talked about

    The muddle that is left adequately reflects the incoherence of the messages put out

  7. Pat
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    On your first point- a single transferable vote system would have seen most UKIPers give Tories their second preference, and hence more Tory MPs- it would also probably have resulted in a larger number of first preference votes to UKIP- and hence more UKIP MPs. Overall you would get a far more Eurosceptic house. OK BNP supporters would largely give Labour as their second choice- so we'd probably get one or two BNP MPs, but less labour ones- and the two wont work together.
    On the problems from devolution- simply devolve the responsibility for raising the revenue necessary to carry out their functions- which can if they desire include anything but Law and War. The proposal to fund education via the parents, rather than via education authorities would ease this transition considerably. The same procedure should be adopted with local authorities. I doubt this would result in many Welsh or Scottish Tory MPs for reasons of tribalism- but it could well benefit the Liberals, and would over time force the Labour party to adoopt sensible policies- that is ones that didn't depend on handouts to make them work.
    On your third point- if the government doesn't swiftly grasp the deficit- and I don't think the current house will support that- the markets will bring about a crisis which will lead to a general election- fairly swiftly I would have thought.
    Question is- can the Libs be persuaded that STV counts as proportional representation, can they be persuaded that devolving responsibility for revenue raising is a good idea for both them and the country, and can they be persuaded to adopt Mr. Groves generally excellent proposals on funding of education? I have my doubts.
    If not its probably least bad to leave Mr. Brown in office and leave the markets to wipe him out.

  8. Donna W
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    The electorate was most concerned about:
    1) The economy – deficit/debt
    2) Immigration

    Despite all the shouting, the differences between the 3 parties on the first issue were relatively small. The electorate may not be economic geniuses, but they can recognise when they are being fobbed off and not told the truth. With all 3 parties obviously not being straight with the public, there wasn't much to choose between them.

    Clegg lost support because of the second issue. The electorate wants immigration reduced and strictly controlled. The British sense of 'fair play' means that people who entered the country illegally shouldn't get preference over people who follow 'the rules' – even if the rules were too weak. An amnesty for illegal immigrants was the most ridiculous policy he could have come up with.

    Finally, let's ditch the idea that the Conservatives are Eurosceptic. Where's the evidence? They switched parties in the EU Parliament …. so what! That achieves nothing for the UK and is barely visible here. The Eurosceptic majority want powers taken back from Brusssels. They want their voice to be listened to, and that means a Referendum on the EU. Cameron ruled that out because 'he believes we belong in the EU.'

    It shouldn't be HIS decision. We are talking national Sovereignty here, and the people should decide with our politicians enacting OUR decision. I will not return to voting Conservative until that principle is understood and applied.

    • James Morrison
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      I couldn't agree more

    • SJB
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Even Conservatives (e.g. Boris Johnson) are considering an amnesty. Over the next five years how many illegals are likely to be deported and at what cost? Didn't the IPPR estimate that an amnesty would bring in up to £1 billion in tax revenues?

      • alan jutson
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink

        SJB

        It may bring in another 1 billion in taxes, but it may also mean another 1 million in more illegal immigrants as they are shown the reward for breaking the law.

        Let us habve sensible rules, and stick to them.

        No immigrants should be allowed in unless they are legal and conform to all of the rules.

        The problem we have had, is allowing people in who are then subject to investigation, but not holding them in a secure establishment whuilst we do so, and when finding illegals we do not deport them straight away.

        Its not the immigrants fault (they seek to better themselves whereever they can) its our stupid system which has allowed millions to enter here and at the same time, in many cases claim benefits

        • SJB
          Posted May 10, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

          Alan, I agree there is strong risk that an amnesty may encourage others to try their luck in the hope of a future amnesty. But the question remains: what do we do about the 700,000(?) illegals already here? It is easy to say: "Deport them!" – but realistically how many will be? 1,000? 10,000? So some of the illegals remain under the influence of criminal gangs and perhaps are pressured in assisting them traffic other illegals.

          You highlight some of the costs involved, e.g. investigation and accommodation. Think what just these two items are likely to come to per illegal and then add the cost of due process.

          Another factor to consider is whether the professional classes have a vested interest in not pursuing illegals because otherwise who would clean their homes?

  9. JamesM
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I concur with APL, Cameron has brought the UKIP issue on himself by refusing to support a referendum. In my opinion the Tories greatly underestimate the depth of anti-european feeling amongst the electorate.

    Some serious thought needs to go into this issue before round 2 happens in October.

    • Winston's Black
      Posted May 9, 2010 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Forgive me for being pedantic but you should have said " anti EU feeling amongsth the electorate."

      You have unconsciously fallen into the trap set by the left wing media which brands proper scepticism of the EU as "anti European."

      The two things are very different.

      Semantics apart I agree with the point you make.

      • JamesM
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        Winstons' Black Dog, you are of course quite correct, I meant to say anti EU rather than anti european.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I like Mark Thatcher's quote in today's Daily Telegraph about Lady Thatcher's view "She has always taken the view that general elections aren't about what the people want, but what is on offer to the people". The Lady has it right yet again. Perhaps there will be more on offer at the next election in October.

  11. Woodsy42
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Surely the voters said 'none of the above' as clearly as can possibly be said under the existing system.
    As for why we voted for a federalist party, maybe the lack of choice was a serious factor!

    • Dr Bernard Juby
      Posted May 8, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      I have always argued for a box on the ballot paper to read, "None of the above" That way we could get rid of the party clones foisted on the Constituencies by Party Lists and vote for real, local people. It would also stop any-one from saying that they had a clear mandate from the electorate when they were clearly not wanted. We could have a higher turn-out as well. If we get any debate on electoral reform then this has got to be part of it.

      • alan jutson
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        Agreed, it would certainly do no harm, but would perhaps concentrate the minds of the party leaders of their failure to connect, should that vote be a high percentage.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted May 9, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        You haven't quite gone the whole hog on this. An anarchist would welcome a box for "I do not wish to be represented at all". Their is also a case for each individual candidate stating on the ballot paper the remuneration that he/she would like for doing the job; this could be instead of or as well as a declaration of party alliegance. There's real democracy and a real market for you!

        • Dr Bernard Juby
          Posted May 9, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          The trouble with this is that there would not be enough space on the ballot paper. Surely that is what the Hustings is all about + the Candidates' free delivery of leaflets?

  12. Robbo
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    "In a hung Parliament the politics of devolution mean the non English parts of the Union demanding all immunity from public spending reductions as the price of their support for other measures."

    I would make the SNP an offer they can't refuse, a referendum on independence. If they go independent, the parliamentary arithmetic changes dramatically. If they vote to stay in the UK, their featherbedding in terms of number of MPs and public expenditure can be stripped.

  13. Mike Fowle
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    The clear political division between England and the other countries that make up the UK is concerning. Whilst I always used to support a FPTP system, there is no real answer the Lib Dem complaint that their supporters are disenfranchised. I believe Cameron can usefully enter into discussions with the Lib Dems over electoral reform which would be of genuine benefit to the country. Let us lay old prejudices aside and consider what is in the national interest. Such discussions should also attempt to answer the West Lothian question. (Prising the squatter out of No 10 first, of course.)

  14. Rich
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    John, I agree that Britain is a Eurosceptic country. Unfortunately none of the three main parties share that view. The Conservatives talk meaninglessly of 'in Europe but not run by Europe'. In practice they have done as much if not more than Labour has to put Britain into the superstate.

    MPs of the three main parties are largely interchangeable and offer voters who support limited government and the right to govern ourselves absolutely no choice whatsoever. Instead they seem to see their job as convincing a sceptical public that big government nanny state socialism is the way forward.

    Despite what MPs may think, the majority of the people in the UK are not stupid and are well aware of this.

    The Tories did not "fail to get their message across". They got it across very well. Voters could clearly see they are essentially "New New Labour" in all but name.

    And that's why Cameron's having to do a Brown style back stairs stitch up to get into number 10.

    • Rich
      Posted May 9, 2010 at 2:34 am | Permalink

      I see comments after mine have been published while mine remains 'awaiting moderation'.

      You people are really beyond satire. Do think most people have not yet figured out that the modern Tory party is about as Conservative as Michael Foot?

      Now they are hard at work sacrificing what's left of their principles to get into a coalition with the Lib-Dims.

      How can anybody who calls themselves a Conservative remain in the party under those circumstances?

      Oh, I forgot the cash and perks – including one of the few pensions in the UK worth getting.

      It's but small consolation to an average smalltime bigot like me that the Tories got a well-deserved drubbing at this election, as the betrayal, ruination and continued sellout of my country by the political elite looks set to continue.

      • sue j
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        Here here!! they won't publish mine either typical tories.

  15. Mark
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I agree with many of the comments above.

    So far as the EU is concerned, it is obvious that we are indeed at a crossroads, as Angela Merkel pointed out. She and Sarkozy seem to think that the PIIGS can be controlled by herding them into her sty. They have forgotten that their own people have a view, and so do those of the PIIGS. Of course, the Greek bailout is a disguised bailout for French banks, who happen to hold large chunks of Greek debt.

    The EU is unstable, and if it is to survive it will need to reform to a viable basis. We need to try to steer it away from the kind of implosion that would see the next intra European wars, and we need to avoid getting sucked in to them. This is a very different vision from the current Europhile/Eurosceptic views, which now seem almost sterile in the face of developments that have been precipitated (in the chemical sense as much as in the sense of acceleration) by the global banking crisis.

  16. Dr Bernard Juby
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    It's the old "Midlothian Question" writ large, again. We could solve any constitutional crisis by having an English Parliament in Westminster which dealt with purely English matters (with the Welsh MPs in Wales, Scottish MPs in Scotland & N. Irish MPs in N.Ireland). The entire Parliament could then meet when United Kingdom issues were debated. That way the English Parliament would have a majority of Conservatives in England without the deadweight of Labour's Scottish power base and get on with it. The consensus would then have to be found on those matters concerning the ("inter")national debt crises, immigration, etc. The electorate would then come to see who really had the best interests of the Country as a whole at heart!

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 9, 2010 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Agreed again, this whole double vote, double interest type of devolution is not fair, is not working, and is simply not English.

      The politicians only have themselves to blame for any future split in the Union. devolved power is leading to self interest in those regions (nothing wrong with that in principle) and the voters in those areas appear to be backing it by voting local.

      At the moment its heads the devolved powers win, and tails England looses

  17. ps
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    John congratulations on your re election. Congratulations to the Conservatives for a good result in terms of seats won.

    I appreciate a majority would have been a whole lot better but with a high proportion of voters dependant on the state and labours control of the BBC this is probably as good as it gets.

    If the conservatives can get power (even if shared)they can start to administer the country in its long term interests. Once a proper audit of the nations finances has been done and made public in a clear and understandable format the terrible damage that labour has done will become obvious. If a new election is called after this point at least the conservatives will be playing on a level playing field. (or if you are as cynical as new labour the pitch will be in your favour!).

    Re Europe -look on the bright side, the sceptics have been proved right, 30 years has brought few benefits and huge costs. Perhaps a free trade zone without the huge bureaucracy will be the long term result of the meltdown that is in progress.

    Re Scotland & Wales-again perhaps there is an upside to this. Offer Scotland full independence. Not only do you get rid of an area that is a constant drain on England you also change the electoral landscape for good. If SNP etc don't take the chance then they are exposed for the hot air that they are. Presuming they remain in the EEC trade can carry on as always.

    Re Putting off painful deficit reductions/cutting red tape/helping the private sector with a fair environment. Again your time has come as there really isn't a viable alternative. Labour tax & spend has failed miserably. The ability to tax further is very limited. The ability to continue to borrow is gone.

    I feel sure that many of the politician recently elected are pragmatists and will come round to your philosophy once they have power. Good luck to you all as your country really needs good sensible government.

  18. Winston's Black
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    According to Richard North there are 40 seats where the margin of defeat of the second placed Conservative was exceeded by a combination of UKIP and BNP, the only two genuinely Eurosceptic parties.

    Mr Cameron's Blue Labour package could not even obtain an overall majority against one of the most hated governments in living memory!

    It seems that the Lib Dems are more natural bedfellows than the core Conservatives by ideology now voting UKIP and even (God forbid) BNP.

    When will your party come to its senses Mr Redwood?

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted May 10, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      The LibDems won seats in parliament; UKIP and BNP did not.

      You should also recognise the importance of the constituency boundaries that are rigged in Labour's favour. In 2005, Labour won 36% of the popular vote and won a 66 seat majority. In 2010, the Conservatives won 36% of the popular vote and got no majority at all.

  19. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    This is as good a place as any to do a post mortem on the Conservative campaign. In the end, although very late in the day, we got the electorate to focus on the LibDem's dotty policies on Europe, the Euro and immigration.

    We partially failed to highlight Labour's disasterous record and plans for the economy. We also failed to catalogue the disasterous loss of liberty and the army of Little Hitlers unleashed by Labour.

    John Redwood could have done a brilliant job on the first topic and David Davis similarly on the second topic. All it would have needed would be for David Cameron to advise the media to listen to the two speeches on particular days.

    Instead, David Cameron hogged all the limelight himself and pretended that we operated a presidential system. He failed to delegate. Once again the cult of the leader has cost the Conservative Party dearly.

  20. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 10, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    The voters didn't necessarily say anything. There were getting on for 30 million votes cast on the basis of 30 million different opinions. There followed a particular form of bottom up organisation to yield 649 MPs, eventually to be 650. The last votes no longer matter. Only governing the country and thinking about the next vote matter now.

  21. Cindy
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I jumped on Wikipedia and read the article, but it was a lot like walking through pudding: slow going and afterward I felt kinda dirty.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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