Monday, 10 May 2010

Thoughts on the result

My response to the result of the general election.

1) Overall Result: A Conservative coalition or arrangement with the Liberal Democrats is in all likelyhood a better result for Cameron and the party than a small majority. Had a small majority been achieved the Liberals could have joined Labour in the luxury of opposition whilst the Conservatives made the tough decisions alone, and then reaped the electoral benefits. As it is, it spreads the hurt. Cameron can also use Liberal votes to stop the paleocons in his own party holding him to ransom. If Cameron and Clegg can sidestep PR to do a deal, that'd be a good short term outcome. Will probably need another election within a year though.

2) The South: Obviously solid Conservative territory. In the Southwest, Southeast and East the Labour party have a combined total of 10 seats. Conservatives didn't gain from the Liberals everywhere but made significant inroads in Cornwall, taking three seats and slashing majorities in others.

3) London: Labour vote held up rather well, disappointingly. Satisfying capture of Richmond Park some comfort.

4) The North: Did not produce the kind of Conservative breakthrough one might have hoped for, but some impressive gains and good swings offer rays of hope. Disappointing but promising for the future.

5) Wales: A bit of a mixed bag, but good. Labour held off a Plaid Cymru challenge in Ynys Môn, and the Conservatives moved back into second place with eight seats. Missed out in Vale of Clwyd, but a surprise scalp in Montgomeryshire.

6) Scotland: Ouch. As with the other unionist focus in Northern Ireland, a very poor night for the Conservatives. A swing to Labour (!) saw us make no gains, although we avoided the humiliation of losing our lone seat in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweedale. Dumfries and Galloway, East Renfrewshire, Stirling, Ochil and Perthshire South, Perth and Perthshire North and Angus all evaded us. The Conservative vote did advance against the Liberal Democrats in Argyll & Bute, where the majority over the Conservatives fell by about 2000, and Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine, where the Liberal Democrat majority was slashed by roughly 4000. Seats to watch for the Scottish Conservatives & Unionists.

7) Northern Ireland: Hmm. Well, for the UCUNF it's another ouch. Reg Empey failing to take Antrim South is a major disappointment - having a probable government minister holding a seat in Northern Ireland would have been a major forward leap for unionism. Strangford was also a disappointment - clearly the avoidance of a by-election for months allowed the Irisgate outrage to die down. Belfast East - unsure. I'm a big fan of the APNI's original purpose of non-sectarian unionism but it isn't clear that is what they are anymore. Same mixed feelings about Fermanagh & South Tyrone: seeing Sinn Fein returned is always depressing (especially by four votes), but I never liked the idea of 'unionist unity' - it isn't a strategy that supports the long-term integration of Northern Ireland into the UK. Still, with seats such as FST, Tyrone West and South Down long-shot targets for Unity candidates I can see the temptation. For my money, I think that the mainland parties should try to build a unionism that appeals to the 35%-odd of Catholics who favour the union (only 7% vote for Unionist parties). Lady Hermon obviously a disappointment - if she's going to vote as a loyal Labour MP I wish she would stand as one and help to bring mainland politics to Northern Ireland.

Cameron is a firm Unionist, and he must stay the course. There is evidence that the results in Northern Ireland and Scotland will lend courage to the EnGnats in the Conservative ranks, and the little-Ulstermen in the UUP. He must not take his eye off the long-term aim: of a Conservative & Unionist party with representation in all parts of our United Kingdom.

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