What a momentous past 24 hours!
When I wrote my last post in my British Elections 2015 series, like most, I little realized what the outcomes of the elections just gone will be – not the winners, not the losers, not anyone could have foreseen the election outcome, unless with an extraordinary gift for foretelling the future. The emotion for those taking part as a candidate or supporter, or simply watching the drama unraveling before our eyes, thanks to the various media that is accessible to almost everyone, varied considerably, from pure joy to utter despair.
Besides doing stuff I had to do, I had my eyes glued to the superb BBC election results program from the time when the polling stations closed until just now. If I was not doing that then I was observing at two of the counts (one for the national election and one for the local election) that took place in my town, and talking to and trying to encourage many of the people involved from all parties in mainly a good humoured way. This was even while emotions were running high (quite understandable if supporting a particular party or up for election). Then there was what I was able to gather reading what people had to say on social media (and a lot was said, more from those who were unhappy with the result than from those who were happy), often offering quite different perspectives. My mind is in a swirl and I will write what I intend to write in two parts. I am going to use this first part to mainly report on what had happened and the second part to do a more in-depth analysis and include my own thoughts, having had more time to think and further reflect.
The story has been covered exhaustively, and there is no shortage of on-line and other reports on what that story is, along with a range of commentary and spin offs from each story, but there is little to be gained repeating it here. In a nutshell, the main story of interest began with the result of a surprise exit poll. Up to then, most of us were bracing themselves for a close run race between Labour and Conservative, with the Lib Dems losing ground and the SNP gaining significant ground (and likely the balance of power) and, while UKIP and the Greens would pick up a substantially larger vote share compared to previously, it was felt given the first past the post system of voting in operation that they would win few seats. And so it turned out EXCEPT for the surprise prediction the Conservatives would gain many more seats than Labour, and almost enough for an overall majority in the House of Commons, which turned out to be true, despite one well respected politician offering to eat his hat if that were so. Moreover, an overall majority was secured.
When it came to the Parliamentary election result in Southend (my own constituency), there was no surprise when the two sitting Conservative MPs won and even when UKIP and the Greens polled a lot better than previously and the Lib Dems a lot worse. This was expected as the national trend was becoming clearer. The surprise for me was that the majorities were so large. I felt sad for those who lost out having worked hard and a little surprised as I felt they had campaigned well, but their fates were sealed and, for reasons I intend to explore in my next post, significantly more people in Southend voted Conservative than Labour, their main rivals (who were not that far ahead of UKIP), and similar patterns could be seen elsewhere. The local election results followed a few hours later and as expected there was to be more tension and drama.
I predicted in an earlier post that the Conservatives would likely lose further ground in Southend, although with a caveat that my record as a political pundit was not that good. It turned out that not only did the Conservatives retain seats their rivals were optimistic in winning, they even gained seats. While not having enough councilors to form the next administration in Council, they are very close and with the added confidence of being endorsed by the electorate look likely to become a more formidable opposition. Speaking to a number of candidates from all parties, I sensed both disappointment and relief but was impressed that most dealt with their fates with commendable dignity and there were touching moments of gracious behavior and magnanimous responses.
In my next post, I will reflect on where this leaves us as a country and as a town and what might happen and what I would like to see happen. While like many, when I heard the announcement 10pm last night that the Conservatives would do well my heart dropped, as I reflected on the results I found a certain peace, even seeing God’s hand at work (after all that was what we were praying for on the day before the election), and even though I think I understand many of the fears and disappointments expressed by those who wanted to see a very different outcome. Using the chess playing analogy, it is all about preparing for the end game and that is where I am looking. But for further discussion on such matters, see my next post!