Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday 4 August 2013

If Cameron is a "loser" we're going to see a lot more of them

If this is losing, I'll have a bit of that please...
One thing I find difficult to get my head around is how so many people consider Cameron to have been a loser in 2010.

The argument goes that Gordon Brown was a terrible Prime Minister, that a solid majority was ripe for the picking for the Tories and Cameron totally screwed it up.

I'm afraid I don't really buy it.

Yes, Brown was dreadful but for all kinds of complicated reasons it was always a big ask for Cameron to get a majority. In 2005 they were still way behind. The way Labour's vote is distributed across the country makes it hard for the Tories to get enough seats even in a bad year for Labour (indeed 2010 was the red team's second worst vote share since WWI). UKIP shaved some of the Tory vote away, enough to perhaps cost them a dozen or more seats by some calculations. The Lib Dems were surgent in a way not seen in previous elections. Etc. etc. etc.

I'm not trying to make excuses for Cameron. I am not a huge fan of his. It's just that the narrative that it was there for the taking and he bollocksed it up does not stand up to serious scrutiny. He actually got a larger share of the vote than Blair did in 2005 (which delivered Labour a solid majority) but it wasn't enough for him to get over the line.

Many across the political spectrum and within his own party really do consider the Prime Minister a loser though because of this lack of a majority. His own side mutter darkly about how if he does not win a majority next time then he will have twice failed the electoral test and will be forced out as leader, even if the Tories are still the largest party and can form a government. They cite Thatcher and Blair with their thumping majorities and highlight how by comparison Cameron came up woefully short, but that wilfully ignores how the political landscape has shifted over the decades.

Other countries where their Prime Ministers and Chancellors regularly have to share power and often go on to win successive election victories (i.e. remaining in power, not having a majority!) must look upon our hung parliament discourse with bemusement. For them, the dynamics of compromise and coalition are completely normal.

Many psephologists now think that hung parliaments in the UK will become the norm despite us retaining First Past the Post for the foreseeable future. The vote share of the two main parties combined has gone from around 97% in the 1950s to around 65% in 2010. The trend is clear, people want to vote for alternatives to red and blue. Whether it is Lib Dem, UKIP, Green, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow and a multitude of other smaller parties, in the consumer and internet age we like to be able to exercise a much wider choice. This is not Cameron's fault and the idea he can somehow reverse all of these trends is completely unrealistic.

I think the analysts are right and we will see more coalitions/minority governments. Politics is now much more volatile and unpredictable than it once was. If I had to put money on it I would wager that in the next 20 years we will see at least half of the governments being led by someone who was unable to muster a majority at the ballot box.

If Cameron is a "loser", I suspect we're going to see many more such losers walking into 10 Downing Street in the not too distant future.


Anonymous said...

The last 10 GEs have yielded 4 majorities of 100+ and 4 where the largest party has been unable to sustain a majority for 5 years (if at all, as in 2010). Your prediction re: hung parliaments is not a dramatic change from this.
I wonder if what will change is the end of landslides, especially given the recent US experience that with increased polarisation nobody has got 53%+ since 1988. The effect of this on the bargaining power of the Graham Stringers and Peter Bones, we can but dread.

Anonymous said...

Lord Ashcroft is a pretty successful psephological geek. His Poll of polls gives a Labour majority of 90. And an 83% chance of an overall Labour majority of some kind.

If Cameron couldn't win an overall majority when it appeared that the biter recession still held Britain in its wake then he decidedly lost, as Lord A justly holds. Likewise Blair would have failed to hold on in my view, and Brown's excellence as a PM, which reputation grows now, was irrelevant. Sometimes only the opposition can win.

Lord A isn't alone: Despite the carping Labour has put on vote share, while UKIP have been losing theirs to the Conservatives, for now ... Await a resurgence for the EU elections.

Labour hate our leaders, all of them, usually successively. So does the foreign billionaire owned (let's not pretend the Telegraph owning Barclay bros tax 'avoiding" on Brecqhou are British in the same way as we tax payers/residents are shall we?) UK national media. While the BBC obsesses about such papers, repeating their every slight of the two Eds.

So as per Cameron in 2010 it's Labour's to throw away. But Ed Mili needs useful idiots (or bastards as Major called his). Lots of volunteers ....