If you have been in a cave for the last three days, here is a round-up of the general election:
The Conservative Party have gained a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, however not enough of an outright margin to form a government automatically. With 306 seats (with another seat, Thirsk & Malton, a Tory safe seat, not yet confirmed at the time of writing) the Conservatives have not reached the 326/650 figure needed to command an overall majority in the Commons.
This leaves Nick Clegg in the enviable position, as speculated for months, as kingmaker. His party did not have a great surge as expected after Clegg’s impressive performance in polls and in the televised debates, however the 57 seats the party did pick up (five less than the election in 2005) could be affiliated with either the Conservatives or Labour to form a majority government. All day, Clegg and senior Lib Dem members and MPs have been in talks with each other and the other parties to find an agreement of how Parliament will be shaped over its course.
The Labour Party are the definate losers, although no party will be happy that support, and impressive positions in polls at various times that have not translated into votes. The Labour party have lost 91 seats, including former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, whose husband’s expense claim for an adult film sparked the widespread interest in the Parliamentary expense system and resulting scandal which unfolded. Gordon Brown will remain Prime Minister until the other parties come up with a workable solution to take to the Queen.
Although statisticians and journalists alike like to talk about national swings and predictions, it seemed clear that these were unimportant in this election. In wake of the expenses scandal, and a loss of Parliamentary credibility, this election was dominated by the local preferences of the candidate, as much if not more than the make-up of Parliament on a national scale. This was especially prevalent in areas where the current MP had stood down due to the expenses scandal, the local swings were often in double figures.
Overall turnout was 65%, 2.5 million more than the previous election. However, there were such significant increases in voter turnout in some areas that polling stations were unprepared, understaffed, and many experienced queues long until the 10pm deadline of polling, which left many unable to cast their votes. One woman described this as “unconstitutional” outside her polling station in Leeds. It is hard to speculate what importance her vote would have had, although it seems that there may be a legal challenge to some of the results.
The Green Party have gained their very first seat in the House of Commons. Leader Caroline Lucas has been elected to respresent Brighton Pavillion in Parliament, and the pro-environmental action party have heralded it as an “extraordinary breakthrough”.
Former leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage was virtually unhurt after a plane crash in the early morning of polling day. In a small two-seater plane carrying a UKIP banner across three counties, the flag was caught in the propeller and caused the plane to plummet. He left hospital in time to witness the count in Buckinghamshire, where he was resoundingly defeated by the Speaker, John Bercow. It seems his plane crash was a metaphor of what was to come for the rest of the day for Farage.
The British National Party leader Nick Griffin was unsuccesful in his attempt to gain the Parliamentary seat in Barking. He finished third in the polling, behind Conservative’s Simon Marcus and returning Labour MP Margaret Hodge. The party also lost all 12 seats on Barking council, and the local ‘Hope not Hate’ campaigner Nick Lowles has declared this a “rejection of the politics of hate.” Overall, his party gained a larger number of votes, but lost all but two of its councillors that stood in local elections on Thursday and took no Parliamentary seats.
Peter Robinson, the embattled First Minister of Northern Ireland lost his Parliamentary seat in East Belfast, which he had previously held for 31 years. Having suffered with his wife’s political resignation infidelity and resulting depression, he had admitted he did not “want to run” for the seat. The seat was taken by the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long.
Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat former MP of Montgomeryshire lost his seat on Thursday night, has declared he has yet to have his final hurrah in British politics. He told an audience, “In the words of Arnie Schwarzenegger, I’ll be back.” He experienced a 12.1% swing to the Conservative candidate Glyn Davies, a relatively unknown former member of the Welsh assembly in comparison to national favourite Opik, famous for his television appearances and string of famous girlfriends.
A Hung Parliament is the least-best option for each party, and the sooner an election is called, the sooner will have the opportunity to form a majority government. The Conservatives may have not won an overall right to government this election, they have won the opportunity to spend six months providing a “taster” of the policy enactments we can expect of a majoirty Conservative government and they should be given the chance to have a go, and prove to the electorate, especially those who did not this time, but might in the next year, choose to vote Conservative, that the Conservative Party will form the best government. For now, this government shoul be viewed as an interim measure until this election, and will hopefully be comprised of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs, a “best of both worlds”, which would pool together the country’s top four politicians, Cameron, Clegg, Hague and Cable to form a “Dream Team” cabinet.