Phew, just woke up from a horrible nightmare. Dreamt that the polling companies had got things totally screwed up. Instead of the hung parliament everyone predicted, with Labour and Tories neck and neck, there was somehow a Tory lead of 6%. In the dream a wasted landscape was disgorging thousands of blue zombie neoliberals, shuffling through endless acres of supermarkets and housing estates, waving English flags and forcing people into food banks with cattle prods.
What the hell happened? Confounding every single pollster, the Tories are on course for a majority after all. We can look forward to enjoying another five years of smarmy David Cameron preening himself and crossing the Amazon Tamar for the occasional holiday in Kensington by the Sea. While the sinister George Osborne dons his hard hat and visits all the building sites. And for the first time since the 1930s all Cornish seats have gone Conservative. The future is blue. Look on the work of the great voting public and despair.
For the sake of posterity I suppose I’ll have to record the results. Here they are.
Camborne & Redruth
|George Eustice (Conservative)||18,452||40.2%|
|Michael Foster (Labour)||11,448||25.0%|
|Bob Smith (Ukip)||6,776||14.8%|
|Julia Goldsworthy (Lib Dem)||5,687||12.4%|
|Geoff Garbett (Green)||2,608||5.7%|
|Loveday Jenkin (MK)||897||2.0%|
|Scott Mann (Conservative)||21,689||45.0%|
|Dan Rogerson (Lib Dem)||15,068||31.2%|
|Julie Lingard (Ukip)||6,121||12.7%|
|John Whitby (Labour)||2,621||5.4%|
|Amanda Pennington (Green)||2,063||4.3%|
|Jeff Jefferies (MK)||631||1.3%|
|John Allman (Independent)||52||0.1%|
St Austell & Newquay
|Steve Double (Conservative)||20,250||40.2%|
|Stephen Gilbert (Lib Dem)||12,077||24.0%|
|David Mathews (Ukip)||8,503||16.9%|
|Deborah Hopkins (Labour)||5,150||10.2%|
|Steve Slade (Green)||2,318||4.6%|
|Dick Cole (MK)||2,063||4.1%|
|Derek Thomas (Conservative)||18,491||38.3%|
|Andrew George (Lib Dem)||16,022||33.2%|
|Graham Calderwood (Ukip)||5,720||11.8%|
|Cornelius Olivier (Labour)||4,510||9.3%|
|Tim Andrewes (Green)||3,051||6.3%|
|Rob Simmons (MK)||518||1.1%|
South East Cornwall
|Sheryll Murray (Conservative)||25,516||50.5%|
|Phil Hutty (Lib Dem)||8,521||16.9%|
|Bradley Monk (Ukip)||7,698||15.2%|
|Declan Lloyd (Labour)||4,692||9.3%|
|Martin Corney (Green)||2,718||5.4%|
|Andrew Long (MK)||1,003||2.0%|
|George Trubody (Independent)||350||0.7%|
Truro & Falmouth
|Sarah Newton (Conservative)||22,681||44.0%|
|Simon Rix (Lib Dem)||8,681||16.8%|
|Stuart Roden (Labour)||7,814||15.2%|
|John Hyslop (Ukip)||5,967||11.6%|
|Karen Westbrook (Green)||4,483||8.7%|
|Loic Rich (Independent)||792||1.5%|
|Stephen Richardson (MK)||563||1.0%|
|Rik Evans (NHAP)||526||1.0%|
|Stan Guffogg (POP)||37||0.1%|
So how do we explain this victory for zombie politics? Clearly, either a good number of Tory voters were lying through their teeth to the pollsters, or there was a very late (as in picking up the pencil in the polling booth and changing your mind late) swing to Cameron and Co. It’s easy to come up with a list of possible explanations. Pick from the following. Enough people have been insulated from the aftermath of the 2008 crash. Pensions and incomes for the elderly (who vote) have held up. The media has kindly disseminated the Tories’ magical and mendacious narrative of creating economic ‘success’ while Labour left us ‘with no money’. Those who endure the brunt of austerity policies don’t tend to vote. The population is becoming more politically illiterate and can’t tell s**t from sugar.
The Tories’ success is also greatly aided by a rigged voting system that allows expats on the run in Spain to vote for 15 years but makes it more difficult for students, tenants, the mobile and dispossessed to register in the UK. And of course, you can win a majority of seats with the votes of just 24.1% of the registered electors. Or put it another way. The Tories win 36.5% of the vote and get 330 or so seats while Ukip gets 12.5% and just one. There’s something a trifle unfair about this but for the life of me I can’t quite put my finger on it.
So what can we look forward to? Manifestly, for the moment we’re locked in a neoliberal future. That was always going to happen, as a stunning 87.5% voted to continue the politics of austerity. Whatever cuts the Tories eventually make will impact on the poorer and more vulnerable just as they did during the last parliament, while their chums in the City and financial sector can look forward to big handouts and tax cuts to come.
Local government will continue to disintegrate, while public services and chunks of the NHS are sold off to the first spiv or con-artist who happens to show up with a wad of cash. The Equal Constituencies Act will become law, entailing a complete re-shuffling of parliamentary seats every five years and consolidating the Tories’ hold on the levers of government, as they fasten their suckers more firmly on us. The planet will go on frying as little real effort is made to decarbonise energy. Indeed, expect the continuation of massive subsidies for fossil fuel companies as we stick our collective ostrich heads deeper in the sand.
The prospects for Cornwall over the next five years look dismal. Look forward to the ongoing de-Cornishization of our communities as developers celebrate the return of the Tories and get the green light to run rampant over our land. The affordability crisis will worsen as another wave of second home owners greedily cast their eyes west to England’s first colony. Anticipate the crumbling of local services and an increasing gulf between lifestyle Cornwall and lifestruggle Cornwall. Count on the promise of never-ending population growth as the unstated Con/Lab/Lib promise of a million people in Cornwall by the end of the century moves closer to fruition. Contemplate the growing congestion as our towns become monuments to the slash and burn neoliberal consumerist vision. Watch zombie politics tighten its grip on our little, pumped-up, local council elite, myopic, mistaken and misled by assorted bureaucrats and ‘opinion-formers’ in hock to the parasites who’re plundering our land.
So how wrong were my predictions? Clearly, I was a gullible idiot to believe in the polls. I didn’t think they could all be so wrong, but they were. In particular, the hints of a last-minute swing to the Lib Dems in the polls turned out to be in fact a last minute swing to the Tories. Although, as it’s become so difficult to tell them apart, you can surely cut me some rope here, folks.
If we look more closely at my predictions earlier this week and compare them with the actual results we can see that I badly underestimated the Tory vote in Cornwall across the board by 6-10% and overstated the Lib Dems by 4-8%. On the other hand my predictions for Labour, Ukip and the Greens weren’t that far out at all and I was bang on the MK share, with the sole exception of St Austell, where I was just 1% out. Moreover, I got the order of the top four candidates correct in South East, Truro and St Austell and was almost right in Camborne-Redruth. In Truro & Falmouth my predicted scores were right for six of the nine candidates, which can’t be bad. My biggest failure however was in not seeing the Tory clean sweep and predicting the Fib Dems would hold on to two seats.
But let’s not waste any tears on them as they brought their downfall entirely on themselves. They should now do the decent thing in Cornwall, dissolve their party and get out of the road. Moreover, their incompetence over the past few decades must take some share of the blame for allowing the toxic English nationalist Ukip to gain a foothold in Cornwall.
Meanwhile, the Greens’ surge came and went three or four months too soon. As for MK, although their vote held up from last time in the face of a squeeze from five other parties and the usual BBC ban, is it not time to rethink the strategy of contesting parliamentary elections and throwing away £3,000 every five years? Now the focus must be the Cornwall Council elections in 2017. The work of stopping people wasting another vote on the Lib Dems, Labour or Ukip becomes the urgent task. More imagination and involvement in bottom-up local campaigning is likely to be the key.
Although in England the politics of fear, scaremongering and greed have triumphed, there are some silver linings to this train crash. The Scots have shown us that the politics of hope are always possible. Turnout rose by up to 10% in Scotland but was fairly static in England (although rising slightly across Cornwall). Levels of disaffection and disillusion remain at record levels. The trick is to turn those disillusioned non-voters into voters for change. The SNP has done this; it should not be impossible here. Labour and the Liberal Democrats’ pathetic caving in to Tory bullying when they joined in demonising and isolating the SNP has backfired very badly. Even had Labour held on to its Scottish seats it wouldn’t have prevented a Tory majority, so it’s lucky for the Scots that they proved immune to that particular canard.
The danger now is that the Tories will cynically find some way to remove the Scottish MPs from Westminster. That, plus the Equal Constituencies Act and a dysfunctional voting system, will then cement them in place and make it very difficult to see how they will ever be shifted by a politically torpid and dumbed down English electorate. More hopefully, the election has driven another nail into the coffin of tactical voting. All those people in Cornwall who at the last moment voted ‘with their head’ but now see it had zero effect on the outcome should hang those heads in shame. Until we resist the siren call of tactical voting we will never rid ourselves of this antiquated electoral system and join the vast majority of more enlightened democracies elsewhere in Europe.
Finally, there’s the question of legitimacy. As the Tories gloat their way back to their Westminster sinecures and set about allowing their mates to go on plundering the planet, they’ll be doing it with the active support of less than a quarter of the British people. Is this right? Is it fair? Is it proper?