06 May 2012

Enjoying the post-election fall-out

For a left sympathiser such as myself there was much to cheer in the local election results and things have only got better in the couple of days since... I'll just pick out a few bits and pieces that struck me in particular:

  • For the first time in living memory I actually underestimated how well Labour would do. I thought they'd get about 500 seats, lose Glasgow and Ken would lose to Boris narrowly. In the end they picked up over 800 seats - which led to the hilarious spectacle of Baroness Warsi saying Labour needed to win 700 seats to be credible, then upping the figure to 1000 when she was informed that Labour had already gone over 700. Ho ho. And they held Glasgow. 
  • Ken lost to Boris, but not by much. Considering the number of own goals he'd scored, the massive bias of the press against him, and the attacks on him by his own side, being only 3% down after 2nd preferences was a pretty good effort. The fact that it was much tighter than the opinion polls suggested made it harder for the Tories (or indeed the Blairites) to spin the result as a disaster for Labour. 
  • Ed Miliband emerges immensely strengthened from these elections and is now almost certainly safe until 2015. It may even be that some of the Labour right stops thinking about ways to get rid of him and starts trying to think about ways to win an election. He can but hope. 
  • The fall-out from the results in the Tory camp has been hilarious. Badge of honour has to go to Nadine Dorres who is a total loose cannon, making the anti-Blair plotters of 2005-06 look completely tame. Did any Brownite Labour MP give an interview as incendiary as this at that time? 
More on Dorres: I agree that the Tories could probably find 46 signatures for a leadership election quite easily. Just look at some of the right-wing wackos on the backbenches and that's obvious. Whether an alternative candidate could actually beat Cameron is another matter. I don't really feel qualified to pronounce on that as I don't know what the average Tory activist thinks about Cameron nowadays (and remember the Tory leader is chosen by a run-off vote among party members, not MPs). It's possible, I suppose, although as Cameron has only really hit a bad patch in the last 2 months or so, I would be surprised if the party didn't give him more time to turn it around. If I were a Tory right-winger I'd be tempted to bide my time - if Cameron loses in 2015 then the right-wing would have a clear run at taking over, either through a fresh-faced hard right winger like my MP Priti Patel (god help us) or through the proven populist right-wing Trojan horse that is Boris Johnson. If Cameron wins in 2015, the right also has leverage - they can basically turf him out if he doesn't sign up for a hard-right programme. In fact my guess is they won't need to - Cameron is basically a right-winger on most issues (except gay marriage) and is currently operating concessions to the Lib Dems only because the parliamentary arithmetic means he has to. 

Turfing Cameron out this side of Christmas would present the new right-wing Tory leader with a problem; assuming the Lib Dems abandon the coalition at that point (which they surely would - they're spineless collaborators but they're not (mostly) fascist assholes), how is this new model Tory govt going to pass any policies? It would be a minority govt. The PM couldn't dissolve parliament early because he/she needs a 2/3rds majority under the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011. So you see, there really is no viable right-wing alternative to the Coalition. What would probably happen is that after a few months of stasis, the Lib Dems and Labour would unite to pull the plug on the whole sorry affair... pass a no-confidence vote, refuse to form a govt for 14 days and then there would be a dissolution and an early election. 

So my prediction is that Cameron will survive until 2015 whatever the right thinks. But it's great fun to watch the Tory party tearing itself apart (or bits of it anyway). Meanwhile, Labour looks more at ease with itself than at any time since about 2001. Not an outcome many of us would predicted even a few months ago. 

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