The dust has yet to settle on what turned out to be a rather surprising Tory victory in last Thursday’s General Election. While the pollsters got it wrong—consistently—in the weeks leading up to the election, the exit poll conducted by Strathclyde University’s Professor John Curtice was spot on. Now we are all waiting to see which hat former Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) party leader Paddy Ashdown will eat, having declared his intention to do so if the exit poll turned out to be correct.
I was an undecided voter almost until the moment I put my X on the ballot paper around 11:30. But weighing up all the options, I decided to vote Lib Dem. Not that my vote counted for much, as it turned out. As throughout the country, the Lib Dem support collapsed, down almost 15% in the Bromsgrove constituency. On the other hand, incumbent Conservative MP Savid Javid increased his share of the vote by more than 10%, winning the seat by a massive majority over the Labour candidate of more than 16,500 and almost 54% of the votes cast. The data below are copied from the BBC website.
I didn’t vote in 2010—couldn’t, in fact. We arrived back in the UK from the Philippines on 2 May, just a few days before the General Election was run. And being outside the country beforehand, we were not registered to vote. Sajid Javid was elected to Parliament for the first time in 2010, and became Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport a year ago when the then incumbent had to step down. Now he has been promoted to Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in the new Cameron Cabinet.
Bromsgrove has been a Conservative constituency forever. And I get the impression that Labour and the Lib Dems didn’t really mount much of a campaign. UKIP were in evidence (so my wife told me when she went into the town centre twice a week), but I never saw hide nor hair of any of the candidates, just received campaign materials through the door, with Javid’s team sending us the most.
So why did I vote Lib Dem? I’m not a Lib Dem ideologically. In fact, I blogged some months back that I’m your typical middle of the road voter. Not all that is Conservative is wrong, although much is. Likewise, there were important elements of the Labour manifesto I could support, but not all. I really feel that the Lib Dems have been unfairly hammered by their own supporters, opponents, and the media for joining a coalition government in 2010, particularly on the issue of student fees issues. As I have also written before, coalition is all about the art of compromise, and there are good things that the Lib Dems prevented the Conservatives enacting in their legislative program. Just read this analysis in today’s Independent newspaper. Of course that’s academic now that Cameron has his majority, albeit a tiny one. Heaven help us if (probably when) the pressures of his right wing back-benchers force him to adopt measures that many of us fear.
Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has been vilified in the media. I watched all the leader interviews hosted by Evan Davis in the weeks leading up to the election. Clegg was the first leader who Davis interviewed. I was incensed by what I perceived as an unfair grilling by Davis; the other leaders in subsequent interviews were treatedmuch more benignly, almost with kid gloves on. I even took to Twitter to vent my dissatisfaction with the Clegg interview as you can see in my tweets below (the most recent of the string at the top).
I was never going to vote for the UKIP or Green Party candidates. In the end I just couldn’t bring myself to support Labour either. Ed Miliband just didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t envisage him in No. 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister. Well, having resigned in the aftermath of the Labour bloodbath, Miliband seems to have shrugged his shoulders, and just walked away. He’d better look over his shoulders because the knives are already out, many being wielded by erstwhile former colleagues.
So I’m one of the few million nationwide who saw a possible role for the Lib Dems in another coalition government. That’s what the polls had indicated was the likely outcome of the vote, and I placed my X accordingly. Either the pollsters got their methodology totally wrong in this election, or they were told ‘porkies’ by all the people they polled. Whatever the reason, it seems likely there will be an independent inquiry about how and why they got it so wrong, because the ‘guidance’ from the polls must have influenced many voters—me included.