Friday, May 06, 2005

In the cold light of day

Well, I lasted until 4.30am.

By that point, the effects of the coffee were wearing off just as the sleep-inducing effects of the red wine were kicking in, and when the Labour victory was confirmed, that was the cue for my head to hit the pillow.

In many ways it's a strange election to evaluate, no one party having that much to smile about.

Labour secured the "historic third term" (returned MPs parroted that like a mantra) they wanted and nearly everyone expected, but with a vastly reduced majority. Refreshingly, there was little triumphalist rhetoric from anyone, little insistence on the outcome vindicating the decisions of the past four years or giving them a clear and ringing popular endorsement. Instead, Blair and company openly acknowledged that they had been given the much-talked-about "bloody nose" over issues like Iraq and trust, and accepted that much work remains to be done to repair some of the damage the party's reputation and credibility has sustained.

The Tories, meanwhile, will have been wounded by their failure to make significant gains in Labour-held marginals, especially given the poor performance (in relative terms) of Labour. There were a few constituencies that switched allegiance and turned blue, but on the whole it was more like treading stagnant water than a genuine recovery - a fact Howard seems to have acknowledged in announcing his decision to make way "sooner rather than later". They will be a more effective opposition this term, but thanks not to their own gains but to the reduced Labour majority.

All of which should have meant that the Lib Dems benefited. But they didn't - or, at least, not as much as they could have done. Their share of the vote increased, as did the number of constituencies they hold, but I still can't help thinking that, given the positions of their rival parties on Iraq, they could have made up much more ground. Perhaps they were cautious not to overplay their opposition to the war in those seats where they were hoping to wrest control from the Tories - but the hoped-for "decapitations" never materialised, and the under-threat Tories by and large survived, including the unspeakably odious Oliver Letwin.

Of the three constituencies in which I had personal interest - Wansbeck, Nottingham South and Birmingham Ladywood - Labour remained in control of all three. Occupying the latter two seats, fortunately, are Alan Simpson and Clare Short - both very much of the old school, and intent on not giving Blair an easy ride in steering the party away from its roots, but both nevertheless suffering swings away. In Wansbeck, Denis Murphy (the only current Labour MP with a mining background) triumphed. Like Sarah, I was amused that the Tory candidate was called Ginny, but even more amused that she thought she stood a chance while her address as given on the ballot paper was in Wiltshire. Obviously she'd have been in touch with the issues concerning local people in south Northumberland...

Best moment of the night? Well, I missed the Paxman v Galloway heavyweight bout, so it was no contest - the look on Robert Kilroy-Silk's face when the Erewash result was announced and the possibility that he might have lost his deposit sank in. This was a seat in which he polled 31% of the vote in the European elections, don't forget. Hilarious. His political bubble has well and truly burst.

Other bloggers' reactions to / reflections on the election:

Skif recounts his experience counting votes in the Liverpool Riverside constituency (thankfully there were no recounts);

Paul rejoices at Kilroy-Silk's dismal failure in his constituency;

Diamond Geezer despairs at the news that George Galloway is his new MP (as he is for He Who Cannot Be Named), while Inspector Sands commiserates;

Jonathan is bemused by Howard's decision to step down;

Pete and Swiss Toni write about their experiences of voting yesterday;

The Girl offers a guide as to "How To Be Political";

Mike sums up the evening's viewing;

and Vaughan is perturbed with the enthusiasm with which some of the electorate greet the results...

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