Tories and SNP triumph after night of shocks

The Tories are on course to win well over 300 seats in the election — far more than predicted by the pundits beforehand. But have the British people spoken in their favour?

It was an election night like no other, defying logic, history and pollsters’ predictions at every turn. The Conservatives, predicted in every poll to fall far short of the majority they craved, were in touching distance of winning the election outright. The Scottish National Party — winners of six seats five years ago — were only two seats away from a clean sweep of Scotland’s 59 seats, benefiting from a swing larger than any other on record. And the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs, who had known that punishment was coming, would be reduced to a single-figure rump.

The first indications that an extraordinary night was in store came at 10pm, when an exit poll projected that the Tories would take 316 seats, only ten short of an overall majority, and Labour just 239. But it was at Nuneaton in Warwickshire, at 2am, that Ed Miliband’s Labour realised that the game was up. In their 38th target seat — one absolutely crucial to their prospects — not only had they failed to capture the seat; they had lost votes.

But this was just one of several very surprising stories on election night. In Paisley, 20-year-old student Mhairi Black became the youngest MP since 1667 – overthrowing the chief of Labour’s campaign, Douglas Alexander, in the process. Her win was part of an astonishing and unprecedented swing towards the SNP north of the border. The change claimed other high-profile Scottish MPs, including Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and Liberal Democrats Danny Alexander and Charles Kennedy.

For those Liberal Democrats, the memories of holding the balance of power in 2010 were a distant memory. Among those who lost their seats were stalwarts such as Justice Minister Simon Hughes and Business Secretary Vince Cable — MPs thought to be secure in their positions. The party lost thousands of pounds in seats where they were so heavily defeated that they lost their deposits. Their leader, Nick Clegg, looks set to resign. Miliband may follow suit.

A clear mandate?

The Tories say that this is a straightforward vote of confidence in their leadership. The electorate have accepted their message that the economy is back on track and wants to see David Cameron back in 10 Downing Street. As they said all along, the polls and predictions were no reflection of what they really wanted.

But their opponents question this. They will not be represented in Scotland and hardly in Wales or the north of England. And, in contrast to their full title – the Conservative and Unionist Party – they won late support in England by asking voters to reject the democratic choices of voters in some other parts of the United Kingdom. They may have enough MPs — but they don’t have enough of the country.

You Decide

  1. Are you pleased by the election result?
  2. Has the British public given a clear message in this election?

Activities

  1. Choose a party leader and write a speech on their behalf, reacting to the results.
  2. ‘Nationalism won the election’. Write an essay explaining how far you agree with this view.

Some People Say...

“A massive display of the eminent common sense of the British people.”

Boris Johnson (Conservative)

What do you think?

Q & A

Why were the polls so wrong?
It seems that people were less than frank or unsure of their voting intentions when they told pollsters what they were going to do. There has been a similar phenomenon in some other elections — so-called ‘shy Tories’ have been reluctant to admit that they would vote Conservative before doing so.
What on earth happened in Scotland?
It seems that the independence referendum last year has ignited a demand for change north of the border. The swing towards the SNP has been unprecedented. The reasons for this are debated — and will continue to be subject to analysis and discussion, but it seems to indicate anger at the Westminster leadership and a demand for more progressive politics — the SNP stood on a platform calling, in particular, for an end to austerity.

Word Watch

Exit poll
Exit polls have tended to provide strong indications of the likely result, as they ask people how they voted after they did so. This exit poll was taken for the main broadcasters across the country and canvassed 22,000 people across the country.
Youngest MP since 1667
Ms Black is certainly the youngest MP since records began to be taken in 1832 — but it seems likely that there was nobody younger than her since a 13-year-old became an MP in 1667.
Lost their seats
As each individual candidate stands in a constituency, even senior figures in the parliamentary parties can lose their seats. It was rumoured that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg might lose his seat, but he held on in Sheffield Hallam, albeit by a much-reduced margin.

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