11 post match reflections on the 2015 General Election

Because there haven’t been enough articles analysing the aftermath of the General Election, here’s my fifty pence. What do you think? Feel free to comment below.

  1. Social media doesn’t represent everyone’s point of view, just a predominantly (but not exclusively) young (ish), vocal and left leaning demographic. 

Judging by Facebook and Twitter, Labour were very well supported, and you could have been forgiven for thinking the reds would be the largest party. The fact they weren’t serves as a timely reminder that social media isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of everyone’s opinion. It can create an echo chamber effect whereby we surround ourselves (not necessary deliberately) with those we predominantly agree with, sometimes to the extent that we think the views of us and our contemporaries reflect what everyone else feels. Perhaps more dangerously, such behaviour can insulate ourselves and our views from serious scrutiny.

  1. If people didn’t vote the way you think they should have done then it doesn’t mean they’re stupid, deluded, ignorant, selfish, or that democracy has failed

You won’t win people back to your way of seeing things by telling them that they’re wrong, stupid, ignorant etc. It’s been disappointing to see the reaction to the result by both some Labour supporters and leading public figures on the left (Neil KinnockPolly Toynbee and Giles Fraser for example.) It is one thing to express sadness that your party didn’t get in, but quite another to imply democracy has failed, violently protest, and claim parts of the electorate are stupid, cowardly, ignorant, horrible etc. for voting for the ‘baddies.’ This mind-set has been perpetuated by social media and its propensity to encourage and exalt declarations of so called indisputable truths and at the same time vilify those who dare differ from the consensus. As such, when they didn’t get the ‘right result’ some have thrown their toys out their pram’ and got shirty at those who dared diverged from ‘the truth’. I’m afraid it rather smacks of arrogance and self-righteousness, and isn’t helpful to the left’s cause. Indeed, it’s almost as if some want to dispense with democracy altogether and impose some sort of socialist dictatorship. Labour and its supporters need to win people over with a new exciting vision (incidentally, they can do this without going back to the Blairite centre) by getting out and talking to people again and not being swayed by social media. They’ve come back from defeats like this before and can do so again. As a contrast to the pieces cited above, I think this Owen Jones article is much more helpful.

  1. Genuine concern for the poor and vulnerable

It would of course be unfair to paint all those upset at the result in the above way. I’ve spoken to many who respect and uphold the democratic process but who have expressed concern regarding what this Government might inflict on the poor and vulnerable in our society. Will the Conservative’s £12 billion of promised welfare cuts come to pass, and if so, who will they impact upon and how will lives be affected? This is a reasonable question to ask and is especially pertinent given that they won’t have the Lib Dems to ‘hold them back’ or ‘restrain’ them (either one depending on your point of view!)

  1. A politics of fear? 

Could it be that the Conservative messaging throughout the campaign worked more effectively than Labour’s? The word on the street is that on the doorsteps people were concerned about the SNP threat to the unity of Great Britain. This coupled with the ‘what if Labour wreck the economy again’ could have led a significant proportion of the electorate to adopt a ‘better the devil you know’ attitude. That is, they might not have been especially in love with David Cameron et al, but the alternative could be far worse. The below Tory poster typifies this anxiety inducing strategy:

wrecking ball economy         5. There was something seriously wrong with those opinion polls. 

The polls predicted a very closely run contest, and it wasn’t! It will be fascinating to see the reason/s for this. There are at least three possibilities; a.) A late swing to the Tories .b) the shy Tory effect (not everyone declares their allegiances as openly as others) and c.) there’s been a consistent error in the methodology (people who bother to talk to pollsters and take part in surveys might be more left leaning maybe?)

  1. The Liberal Democrat campaign was much of a nothingness.

I was disappointed with the way the Liberals pitched themselves in this election, i.e. more caring than the Tories but not as economically profligate as Labour. Such a message might appear clear and logical, but it doesn’t really give people anything to believe in. Yet, I don’t think this is the reason they were pretty near annihilated. Simon Hughes, who lost his Bermondsey and Old Southwark seat after 32 years made an astute observation – could they have been the victim of a tactical voting squeeze? Those Lib Dem voters on the left who didn’t want a Tory government switched to Labour, whilst those on the right not wanting Labour switched to the Tories, something we saw particularly in the South West of England. The one silver lining for them is that they can now pretty much take a blank sheet of paper and start again under a new leader. A party that genuinely stands up for free speech would be nice!

  1. The Union will now become a massive issue.

Following the ‘SNP Tsunami’ in Scotland, I think the SNP despite their protestations to the contrary will now push for their end game, full independence by the end of this parliament. How will Cameron manage this? Will a devo-max/federalist type offer early on be enough? I have to say I doubt it.

  1. Get the EU referendum done as soon as possible

Boris Johnson made a good point in the early hours of Friday morning. Due to the recent high levels of support for EU membership and the fact that UKIP had a disappointing night in terms of actual seats won, the new government should announce a referendum within the first year of the parliament. It’ll satisfy the Tory euro-sceptics who could make life difficult for Cameron and his fellow modernisers in this parliament if they so desired, and would capitalise on a time of relative weakness for UKIP while they sort themselves out following Nigel Farage’s departure.

  1. The time has come for voting reform.

Our democracy is indeed far from perfect and change is needed. The fact the Greens and UKIP can get 4 million votes between them and end up with just two seats demonstrates a great need for reform. Put simply, we don’t live in a two party state any more, or at least no longer in the traditional sense. I’d like to see some sort of PR element introduced to our electoral system in this Parliament. I doubt we’ll get it though.

  1. Let’s keep some perspective.

Listening to some people, it’s as if the apocalypse has come. Yes, things are far from perfect in this country, could yet get worse, and it’s good to want to make things better. We do however still have so much to be grateful for. Most of us can walk down the streets without getting shot, stabbed or beaten up, we can take part in free and fair elections, we have access to clean water and food and in general peace and order reigns. For these blessings and more we should be very grateful. Perspective is important, whatever your political stance.

  1. Be gracious. 

Finally, if you’re a Christian and things didn’t turn out how you wanted, be gracious and pray for your leaders. If you’re a Christian and things did turn out how you wanted, be gracious and pray for your leaders.

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