Friday, May 7, 2010

The UK Election, I was so far off!!!

The polling numbers even in the last week did not indicate to me the result that happened would happen.  The one poll that was reasonably accurate was the exit poll.

So what happened?   Why did the polls not see the result?   I am not certain at this time.

Close to a record number of seats change hands, 115 in total.   1997 still holds the lead with 184 in the last 60 years.  In the three of the last four elections there has been an above average number of seats change hands.  1951 to 1992 may have been a stable era with respect to elections.   Before 1951 it was an anomaly to have an election where fewer than 15% of the seats changed hands.   In 1906 close to half of the seats changed hands.

Given the lack of any uniform swing anywhere, this election heralds a period of electoral instability.  Fewer seats will be safe in each election than pundits have assumed in the past.


UK Outside of England
There are total of 117 MPs from outside of England.   The Conservatives only took 9 of those seats, if you count the Unionists, that goes to 17 government supportive seats.   Labour took 67 seats.  Wales and Scotland are clearly not on board with a Cameron government.


Scotland - Labour won handily here and even increased their share of the vote.   Not a single Scottish seat changed hands.  Scottish turn out was up.   The danger for the Liberal Democrats is that if they cooperate with Conservatives they could be viewed as the Conservative stand ins in Scotland and thereby take heat for the program of government.   Almost one fifth of their seats are in Scotland.

Wales 
Labour retained 26 of the seats here, though many by the skin of their teeth.   Swansea West was just missed by LD with Labour only getting slightly above 1/3 of the vote.  In Merthyr Tydfil the swing from Labour to the LibDems was almost 17%, Labour survived because they started at over 60%.  

In total 7 of the 40 seats changed hands, the biggest surprise being Montgomeryshire going from Liberal Democrat to Conservative.   On no planet was anyone expecting this loss.

Northern Ireland
Home to 18 MPs that do not fit into the norm of the rest of the UK's politics.  Only 2 seats changed hands, one a surprise.   Northern Ireland does offer 8 MPs than are likely to support a Conservative government, though that could have been 10.




England
The Conservatives comfortably won England finishing with a majority of the seats, but the dominance was not everywhere.   The North of England and London both returned a majority of Labour MPs.  From the Midlands south and outside of London, Labour only took 49 seats out of 300 seats.  


Labour has a new problem, even though they managed to hold 258 seats, they have a problem that large swaths of England they are now the third party.   In the Southeast Labour lost 13 of 17 seats and saw their vote fall from 24.3%  to 16.2%.  The eastern part of England Labour lost 11 of 13 seats and went from 29.8% of the vote to 19.6% of the vote.  In the Southwest they lost 8 of 12 and dropped from 22.8% to 15.4%.

The problem with these results is that the narrative in the next election will not have the media speaking of winnable seats for Labour though much of England from the Midlands south.  Seats like Southend West Labour is now a distant third.  Over and over again on the southern half of England Labour is now an uncompetitive third place finisher.   The narrative in these seats in the next election will be about LibDem versus Conservatives.

There are seats now where Labour is getting rather close to the line for losing their deposit.   In Somerton & Frome they finished at 4.4% In Chippenham they only manager 6.9% of the vote, down from 16.8%.  In Devon and Cornwall Labour is neck and neck with the UKIP for who is third.  Devon North and Devon West & Torridge they finished behind the UKIP

Some Seats Where Turnout Made the Difference
In Thurrock, Labour narrowly lost to the Conservatives.  Labour lost 3500 voters, but the Conservatives only gained 2500.  At the same time the total vote rose by 4700.
In Northhampton South Liberal Democrats and Conservatives both gained about the same number of votes, but Labour lost twice as that.
Leicester West was held by Labour, but the party suffered for a dramatic drop in total votes.
In Kingswood the increase in total Conservative vote was 800 more than the drop in Labour voters.

Final Take On What Happened?
In places that are traditionally strongly Labour, the vote seems to in general held.  
In two way Conservative LidDem races, the Conservatives did remarkably well.
Labour will be defending a lot more seats than threatening in the next election.

Where to Now?
If Cameron builds a stable relationship with the LibDems, then I suspect it will be two to three years before the next election.   If he can not accomplish that, then I suspect the next election will happen within the year.

The next election will be a better one for both the Conservatives and LibDems because the race in England will be shifted towards the seats that were on the limits of what each party won in this election.   More of those seats are Labour.
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