David Cameron’s surprise victory.May 25, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 35 • By TED R. BROMUND
The smart money said there was no way the Conservatives could win a majority in last Thursday’s general election in Britain. On the left, the New Statesman’s widely followed May2015 blog offered a cogent argument that there would be a blocking majority even against any repeat of the Conservative-led coalition government. On the right, columnist Matthew Parris echoed many Tories in fearing that the British people were about to make a terrible mistake. But it turns out that you hold elections because you don’t know the result in advance. On May 7, the British people returned a majority Conservative government. The smart money was wrong.
It’s not fair to say that no one saw this coming: Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s bulldog press secretary, called it in a column in the Yorkshire Post, and, in the aftermath of the election, one firm privately claimed to have detected a last-minute swing to the Tories in a poll it found too incredible to publish. Still, hundreds of polls over the previous months had shown the main parties essentially tied. None of the Tory candidates I canvassed with in the days before the election saw victory coming, nor did any of the center-right think tanks. Most were preparing for a Tory defeat.
In the end, it was a victory: 331 Tory MPs, as against 325 needed for a majority, and a vote share of 36.9 percent. Labour tallied only 232 MPs and 30.4 percent of the vote. The polls weren’t all wrong: They were right about the scale of the Scottish National party’s (SNP) triumph and the failure of the U.K. Independence party (UKIP) to break through, and they also called the collapse of the Liberal Democrats, though no one expected the Tories’ coalition partner to slump from 57 MPs down to 8, putting them about where they were in 1979.
Unfortunately, the polls were wrong where it mattered most: They didn’t pick the winner. When shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls went down in a symbolic defeat in the small hours of Friday morning, traders in the City of London cheered, while the Tories in the Savile Club rushed to Marks & Spencer to buy more champagne. In 1997, Labour’s celebrants asked each other the next day if they’d been “up for Portillo”—still awake when the defeat of Labour hate-figure Michael Portillo was announced. In Balls, the Tories now have an equivalent scalp.
The inquest is under way. The slightly superannuated figures of New Labour—Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson in the vanguard—argue that under Ed Miliband, Labour lost its way. Believing that the financial crisis signaled a permanent turn to the left, it forgot about the aspirational classes, who may dislike bankers but have no appetite for a war on business. Aspiring Labour leaders like Chuka Umunna agree. Writing in the Guardian, Umunna condemned his party for having “too little to say to the majority of people in the middle.”
That is indeed a problem, but it is not the only one. There’s the matter of Miliband’s campaign, advised by a well-paid David Axelrod. Cameron’s government wasn’t perfect, but Miliband’s effort to bring it down was clownish. His signature moments were securing the endorsement of comedic has-been Russell Brand and engraving his pledges to the nation on a stone tablet, which sparked a flurry of #Edstone Twitter mockery.
Labour’s structural dilemmas are far more serious and cannot easily be remedied by better campaigning. It has lost all but one of its Scottish seats to the SNP. If it does not recover them—and there is no immediate reason to believe it will, though Labour must hope that the SNP is a classic political bubble—it is unlikely to be able regularly to win a majority in England alone. That means it will need to rely on coalition deals with the SNP—but it was, in part, the threat of such a deal that scared English voters into swinging to the Tories. In other words, Labour’s weakness in Scotland feeds its weakness in England.
Moreover, in England, its coalition is similar to Obama’s: The progressive elite and some ethnic minorities give it much of London, and the postindustrial working class gives it the Midlands and the north. One weak point of this coalition is that the London elite love the workers in theory, but despise them in practice; another is the friction between the workers and the minorities. The Lib Dems have proven even more fragile. Comprising the most naïve and self-righteous elements in Britain’s body politic, they could not stand the realization that being in government means making tough choices. They therefore committed political suicide.
8:02 AM, Jul 3, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken her book tour abroad. But in an interview with the BBC, when answering a question about how specialness of the special relationship between the U.S. and UK, the nation's former top diplomat gets the names of the political parties in the UK wrong.
The BBC host asked, "So how special is the special relationship?"
Britain’s UKIP raises the question: Can an anti-political party ever be a political success?May 26, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 35 • By TED R. BROMUND
6:31 PM, Apr 17, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The British Labour party announced David Axelrod will be working to help Ed Miliband become the next prime minister.
2:33 PM, May 7, 2011 • By PHILIP TERZIAN
The news has flown a bit under the radar here in the United States, for understandable reasons; but the results earlier this week of the Scottish parliament elections are historic. Whether this is good or bad history, of course, remains to be seen. For the first time, and much against the odds and recent opinion polls, Alex Salmond's Scottish Nationalist Party has won an absolute majority in the Edinburgh parliament--something that the Hollyrood system was designed to prevent, and which now puts the future of the United Kingdom itself in jeopardy. Let me explain.
The death of Ireland’s crony capitalist party.Feb 21, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 22 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
In the grand old days before the Irish real estate boom collapsed, the ruling Fianna Fáil party used to campaign the fun way. Infamously, the party held blowout fundraisers every year in a tent at the Galway races. Bankers and property magnates would show up, caked in bling, surrounded by attractive young women and occasionally even their wives, and get drunk with their elected representatives and regulators.
Can a marriage of convenience between Tories and Lib Dems endure for five years? May 24, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 34 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Republicans, if they learn from Conservatives, can avoid big blunders.12:15 AM, May 9, 2010 • By FRED BARNES
Conservatives came in first in Thursday’s election in Great Britain, but it’s their failure to win a majority that Republicans should examine for the lessons it teaches. If the GOP listens, they’ll improve their chance of winning control of Congress in the congressional midterm election on November 2.
An unlikely Tory/LibDem alliance? 12:59 PM, May 7, 2010 • By PHILIP TERZIAN
At the moment, it is reasonable to assume that the price of Britain's political system would appear to be some sort of governing coalition of the Tories and Liberal Democrats. This might take the form of a formal blue/yellow alliance, with LibDems in a Tory cabinet; or it might mean LibDem support for the Tories on certain votes (the next budget, for example) and abstention on certain issues. In any event, Gordon Brown and Labour have been unquestionably rejected, and any arrangement between Brown and the LibDem leader Nick Clegg to keep the Conservative leader David Cameron out of No 10 Downing Street would lack legitimacy, and lead to a strong rebuke at the next general election--probably in a year.
More viral than Joe the Plumber.10:32 AM, Apr 29, 2010 • By ADAM BRICKLEY
On Wednesday morning, it looked as though Gordon Brown might have stalled Cleggmania, inching back into second place in some polls. But then he met Gillian Duffy.
Duffy, a senior citizen and lifelong Labour supporter, bumped into Brown as the prime minister was leaving a meet-and-greet in the town of Rochdale. Duffy told him she was almost ashamed to say she was a Labour voter, and while she would vote for Brown, she had concerns about the national debt, taxes, and immigration. The exchange ended amicably, with Duffy wishing Brown good luck as he climbed into his car. But the prime minister forgot he was wired for sound and lashed out at his aides for allowing Duffy to speak with him. Brown branded the exchange a disaster and called Duffy a "bigoted woman" as his car was leaving the scene.
Gordon Brown in free fall with 11 days to go.
8:05 AM, Apr 26, 2010 • By ADAM BRICKLEY
The closer Britain gets to election day, the more uncertain things become. One uncertainty, however, seems to have been cleared up - Gordon Brown and the Labour Party are out of contention.
The first debate resulted in Nick Clegg and the third place Liberal Democrats surging into close competition with David Cameron's Conservatives for first place. And while Cameron got a bit of a boost in the second debate, Clegg was able to maintain his rising status. As for Brown, he's now seeing some of Labour's lowest poll ratings ever, and he seems to be losing any chance of winning the most seats despite finishing third in the popular vote.
Thoughts on the election across the pond. 9:45 AM, Apr 22, 2010 • By ADAM BRICKLEY
On the heels of the first televised election debate in British history, the country seems to have become totally enamored with Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat party. While the LibDems traditionally languish in a distant third behind the Labour and Conservative parties, Clegg's spectacular debate performance ignited a surge that has pushed his party past Labour and into a statistical tie with David Cameron's Conservatives (some polls show a slim Conservative lead, others a slim LibDem lead).
Appeasing the media has reduced the Tory strategy to the twin pillars of inoffensiveness and not being Labour. Mar 22, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 26 • By ANDREW STUTTAFORD
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