In 2010 the Great British Electorate confounded the pollsters by not voting Liberal Democrat in the expected numbers. Today, they’re confounding the polls once more by indulging in an irrational and whimsical late swing to the Lib Dems. Although this time it’s more the Little English Electorate, as the Scots have tumbled to it and decided not to encourage them any more.
While Scottish polls remain sternly unmoving, and elsewhere the two bigger parties are still locked together, there’s been a noticeable movement in the last two weeks to the Lib Dems. Having bumped along between 7 and 8% for months, they’ve suddenly put on a couple of percentage points to reach 9-10%. They’ve narrowed the gap to Ukip, although still unlikely to close it, especially as up to a fifth of voters have already posted their ballots and fortunately can’t change their minds.
What are the implications of this late shift?
First, if, as is possible, the turn back to Liberal
Hypocrisy Democracy is greater in Lib Dem held seats, then the Lib Dems may well be looking at a seat total nearer 35 than 25, thus enhancing their bargaining power in the now smoke-free rooms following the election. If the pundits are right and the Tories are back as the largest party, then the outcome looks more likely to be another Tory/Lib Dem coalition. Suggesting we might as well not have bothered with the whole circus in the first place.
Second, in Cornwall it looks as if St Ives and North are safe for the Lib Dems while even Yellow Tory Gilbert may even have a sniff of saving his seat at St Austell and beating off Blue Tory Double. Retaining all three Cornish seats would be nothing short of miraculous and cause wild jubilation among the Lib Dem faithful. It also means anyone agonising today over whether to vote with ‘head’ or ‘heart’ need agonise no longer. Vote for what you believe in; it’s vital to maximise the vote for the challenger parties in order to keep their issues on the agenda. In any case, this is a false and simplistic dichotomy, as voting with your heart is in the long run also voting with your head.
In that long run of course, all this is mere window dressing. If/when Clegg and Cameron (or his successor) patch up their differences and cobble together another working relationship, the Lib Dems face another five years of attrition, the loss of hundreds more council seats and languishing in the polls. If they escape by the skin of their teeth this time, then surely they won’t be able to do it three times running. Will they? Please?
Meanwhile, the government will have to deal with the consequences of European austerity politics and Grexit, the next financial crash when it inevitably arrives, and the growing contradictions between the infinite growth they all thoughtlessly sign up to and the finite globe we live on. Sooner or later, people will begin to realise there have to be alternatives to the sham democracy that legitimises an ideology ruthlessly and irresponsibly pillaging our planet. In the meantime by all means vote, but then get down to some serious politics and organise.