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British election results

 
Bartender
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First, I fully admit that I don't follow British politics. I don't even understand the difference(s) between the Labour party and the Tories. But it seems that yesterdays election was a huge deal. Would one of our friends on the other side of the pond please explain to me why this election was so important and what the results mean?
 
Marshal
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It is a common or garden general election such as we have every five years (or more frequently). The Tories (correctly called Conservative) are rather right‑wing and Labour (in theory) socialist and left‑wing. They use opposite colours from what you have in USA: right=blue and left=red.
There had been lots of controversy between the parties, probably exactly the same as what you see Stateside.
The really big changes are:-
  • 1: Almost all seats in Scotland, except for a few in the South, now SNP=Scottish Nationalist Party. The larger towns and cities in Scotland all voted Labour until about 20 years ago, but there are now no Labour MPs in Scotland.
  • 2: Great loss of LibDem (=Liberal Democrat) seats. There used to be two slightly socialist parties Liberals and Social Democrats but about 20 years ago they merged. Yesterday there were 57 LibDem MPs, now more like 10.
  • 3: Previous Conservative Government which ran for 5 years in coalition with the LibDems now have tiny overall majority.
  • There was also a loss of Labour seats.

    There are a few MPs from parties like Ukip (=UK Independence Party) and Plaid Cymru (=Welsh Nationalist Party) (pronounced Plied Kumree). Ukip are significantly more right‑wing than Conservatives, and there had been worry that there would be a right‑wing swing giving them lots of MPs. That hasn't happened.

    If you look at the results for our local election however, you see:-
  • 1: Only the MP results are shown at present (scroll to the very bottom of the page).
  • 2: McDonald has a clear majority, over 50% of the 32706 valid votes.
  • 3: Ukip candidate was second place.
  • That is shameful because it means over 50% of the electorate didn't vote. Since we are a “safe” Labour seat, I think a lot of people voted Ukip just to make a point, and they might not have done so in a “marginal” seat.
    The mayoral results aren't out yet, which is unfortunate because that is the most interesting and the result was unpredictable and not some sort of foregone conclusion.
     
    Bartender
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    Once thing that made the results unusual (and if you are of a similar political persuasion to me, really quite depressing - but that's another story) was that throughout the campaign all the opinion polls consistently said Labour and Conservatives were very close together. There was some fluctuation, but it always pointed clearly to another "hung parliament" (no party with a majority, so one would have to form a coalition with one or more of the smaller parties). Even on the day of the election they were neck and neck. It turned out the polls were completely wrong.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    Matthew Brown wrote: . . . the polls were completely wrong.

    Not the first time that has happened.

    It is surprising that even the exit polls have been wildly inaccurate.
     
    Bartender
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    Well, as a thoroughly biased observer I would disagree with the idea that the Labour party is "socialist" - the Political Compass site depicts Labour as being definitely on the right, which is certainly my perception.

    The two main parties for the last few decades have been the Conservatives (Tories) and Labour. The Tories used to be fairly well-represented across the UK but since Thatcher (late 1970s) have adopted a more US-style brand of conservatism based on free market fundamentalism and "small state" rhetoric which seems to appeal mainly to (southern) English voters for some reason. The Tories are now probably similar to your more moderate Republicans but generally not so obsessed with religion/guns/sexual politics. The Labour party used to be a fairly left-of-centre party with close ties to the trade unions but after several defeats by the Tories in the 1980s/90s, they adopted the deliberately vague "New Labour" brand and have spent the last 20 years shifting to the right in order to try and attract conservative votes in England. These days Labour probably look like the leftward end of your Democratic party.

    Since 2010, we have had a coalition government between the Tories and the minority Liberal Democrats, but this coalition has not been great for the Lib Dems, as many of their voters felt betrayed by Lib Dem support for Tory "austerity" policies, and their vote collapsed in this election.

    The election is a big deal, partly because the opinion polls and chattering classes got it so wrong, and partly because it means we now have a rightwing Tory government with a clear majority in parliament (based on only 37% of the actual votes) to implement its policies without being constrained by the Lib Dems.

    It is also significant because for the first time in a generation, the Scottish electorate has been able to vote for what they perceive as a genuine left-of-centre party - the SNP - instead of the Labour party, which many people view as "Tory Lite". Around 50% of the Scottish electorate did so, which means Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties now have only one seat each in Scotland while the other 56 Scottish seats belong to the SNP. The SNP does not stand outside Scotland, so this creates a strong gap between the Scottish political landscape and the rest of the UK. We now have a large Scottish bloc of SNP seats, but the UK government is controlled by the English-based Tories, which will definitely create some interesting tensions in the next few years and may well lead to demands for a fresh referendum on Scottish independence if Scottish voters see no way to influence the UK government. I suspect if there is such a referendum, then we will see the break-up of the UK this time.

    Another reason why this is a big deal is because the Tory government is committed to an "in/out" referendum on membership of the European Union in the next couple of years. This is an issue which divides most political parties (except for UKIP which only has one policy: leave the EU), and is likely to dominate much of our political debate for the next couple of years.

    [Edit:] If England votes to leave the EU, but Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland vote to stay in (which is distinctly possible), then this could be another pressure leading to the break-up of the UK.

    All in all, this election result feels pretty disastrous to a left-of-centre, UK federalist, pro-European like me. YMMV, I guess.

    Incidentally, you can still fill in the questionnaire on Position Dial to see where you might fit on the UK political spectrum. It reckoned I would be an SNP voter (probably correct), but unfortunately I don't live in Scotland!
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    On Friday, I wrote: . . . there are now no Labour MPs in Scotland. . . .

    I was mistaken. There is one Labour MP in Scotland (Edinburgh South). 30 years ago most of Glasgow and virtually the whole of the rest of Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire, West Fife etc., would have returned Labour MPS.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    I did say, ”(in theory) Socialist.” The change from being a socialist party was quite sudden, in the mid‑90s, and when Blair was PM I couldn't discern a significant difference from the preceding Tory government.
     
    chris webster
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    Campbell Ritchie wrote:I did say, ”(in theory) Socialist.” The change from being a socialist party was quite sudden, in the mid‑90s, and when Blair was PM I couldn't discern a significant difference from the preceding Tory government.


    I think the main difference was Blur/Oasis instead of Gilbert/Sullivan...
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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