A good night for Labour in spite of the odds – think what they could do without the odds stacked against them…

The key result from last night’s elections (to date, the London mayoralty is still to be counted and announced) is that Labour made gains from the Conservatives in the South of England.

This is the bit that the mainstream media will least report on, but definitely the most significant.  The South of England is Conservative heartland and not only are they losing ground here, but losing it to Labour.  Showing perhaps that last year’s Election victory for them wasn’t a seachange but a one-off?

Scotland isn’t as significant.  Sadly, as others have pointed out, the key divide in Scotland isn’t now Right-Left, but Unionist-Independence.  Labour supporters in Scotland are split on the issue of Independence, but the Conservatives are resolutely Unionist.  In fact the Conservative vote hasn’t grown much in Scotland, it’s just that virtually everyone that used to vote Labour now votes SNP.

Labour supporters (like myself) shouldn’t worry about this too much.  No further Independence campaign is coming (unless we vote to leave the EU which hopefully won’t happen) and as long as SNP stays anti-Austerity and anti-Tory then that’s okay – Labour ideas at least are holding people.  If the SNP (as some of us expect) turn a bit more Right Wing, then their supporters will come back to Labour.  It’s the Conservatives who should be more worried in Scotland.  Ruth Davidson is a great leader, but apart from that, they haven’t managed to convince many non-converts of their package.

So overall, a strong night for Labour – despite what some would have you believe.  And all this despite the fact that various cohorts, from the Mann-ites within the Labour party, to virtually every mainstream media outlet have tried to do as much as they can to ruin Labour’s chances.  If they even got neutral press think how well they would be doing.  It’s a hard slog still to 2020 and the press are unlikely to be on their side – their will be worse mud-slinging and accusations to come than the blatant racism directed towards Sadiq Khan or the labelling of criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism… but Labour’s not doing too badly.

 

 

Options for the Liberal Democrats (there aren’t many).

If they know what’s good for them…

 

The Liberal Democrats will pull out of the coalition before the term ends, forcing a general election.

 

Only they’ll have to do it at the right time.  As things stand with current polling, they will be decimated electorally when the country goes to the polls – and with good reason, in my opinion.  They did surprisingly well at the last election through managing to convince enough people that they were a principled enough opposition to Labour.  All those that didn’t want to see the Tories in but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a Labour that had become so unprincipled throughout years of Tony Blair, and then so chaotic under Gordon Brown.

 

They had a real opportunity, but they haven’t used that effectively in this coalition.  They claim that it is important that Liberal Democrat views moderate the Conservatives in government, but they could have chosen to vote against anything at all… and it wouldn’t have gone through.  They haven’t done that.  What they’ve actually done is supported the largely ideological Conservative government reforms, but changed them a little.  If they really wanted to impress as a serious opposition, then they could have completely opposed NHS reforms – NOT ALLOWED THEM TO GO THROUGH – rather than watering them down.. they could have voted against tuition fee rises – NOT ALLOWED THEM TO GO THROUGH – rather than watering them down, etc.

 

If they were the party they lined themselves up as being before the election, they would have done this.

 

Of course, had they done so, then the coalition wouldn’t have been a happy one and would have ended.  But its difficult to see what the Lib Dems have got out of it anyway.  Other than a short glimpse of power for Nick Clegg, and largely just Clegg – Cable has little authority, Huhne has been forced to resign from cabinet.

 

And now they are in the not-enviable, but entirely-understanding position of having virtually everyone who voted for them vote for someone else at the next election.  This is a big problem for the Liberal Democrats.  If current polling predicts correctly, then there won’t be a Liberal Democrats party after the next election.  Some high-ranking MPs are likely to hold on to their seats (Charles Kennedy/Danny Alexander, Vince Cable etc.), but many of the high-ranking MPs like Clegg, Sarah Teather etc., are in real danger of losing their seats.  And that’s just the high-ranking ones.  The Lib Dem MPs that swept in because of the dissatisfaction with Labour will all sweep out again, leaving a few high profile MPs and no real support through the councils and heartland of the country.

 

Nick Clegg must know this is likely to happen, and must have thought through the obvious ways to avoid it.  I have to conclude, therefore that he doesn’t care.  But if he does, then he has one, and only one, small opportunity to save the Liberal Democrats, as I can see it.

 

He can actually stand up to the Tories on one big policy.  He can order the Lib Dems to vote against it, not allowing it to go through.  The Tories will be furious, of course (but they have to understand that they have no mandate to rule, only to rule in coalition.  There’s no reason why they should expect everything to go through), and it will almost certainly mean reprisals.

 

But if the Liberal Democrats pick the issue carefully, if its something that the grass roots of the Liberal Democrats feel strongly about (and their core grass-roots supporters are all that are left to them now, those straying Labour voters firmly turned off ever voting for the Liberal Democrats again), then this will earn them brownie points.

 

If they were to then immediately withdraw from the coalition, forcing a General Election, then it might save some of those MPs seats.  It might sufficiently persuade people that their is some backbone left in them worth saving.

 

It might not, but I don’t see that they can afford to take any chances.  If they continue as they are until the end of the term, they’re dead forever.  If they go soon, but go big, then they might save a few of them. 

 

The only question is, does Nick Clegg want to save them?