Labour's performance in the election is much poorer than I expected, partly because I didn't see through the faulty opinion polls, as to my knowledge some campaigners on the ground most certainly did; but also because the anti-Scotch vote in England seems to have benefitted the Conservatives (and perhaps UKIP) rather than, as I believed likely, the Labour party. I do not understand the reasons for this, but am willing to grant that it might be that the increasingly collectivist rhetoric produced by the Conservative party (the detoxification strategy) succeeded in offering a guilt-free home to English partriotism. In which case the rebranding must be accounted a partial success.
But the character of Labour's disaster, and it is most certainly that, is not immediately apparent from the seats won, and it is to the number of votes cast, which tells a very different story, that we must turn. The following table lists these figures for 2010 and 2015 and then calculates the difference and the ratio of the two numbers:
Both Conservative and Labour received more votes in 2015 than in 2010, but viewed as a multiple of the number of votes cast in 2010 neither party achieved any dramatic increase in 2015. That said, Labour did receive 740,000 more votes. Clearly, Miliband failed to break through; but there is no case for suggesting that the public turned their back on him, except in Scotland where they clearly did; indeed, when approximate allowance is made for the offsetting effects of the Scottish catastrophe, it would seem that Miliband did in fact mobilise significant numbers of extra votes in England. Doubtless this is what underlay much Labour confidence during the campaign.
More obvious and perhaps still more significant are the collapse of the Liberal Democratic vote (-4m); a surge in the UKIP vote (+3m); and a surge in the Green Vote (+900,000).
The collapse in the Liberal Democratic vote is the most striking of all. Even if we assume that the lost 4 million account for all of the increase in the Conservative, Labour, SNP and Green Party votes, there are still over 1 million missing voters, and I find it difficult to believe that many of these voted UKIP. It would seem that Miliband can reasonably be criticised for not attracting these disillusioned LibDems, indeed for actively repelling them with a harshly European-style ideological socialism, evident more in his tone than the literal sense of his announcements, rather rather than the blander well-wishing variety that is traditional in the United Kingdom and certainly drives the Liberal Democrats.
The increases in the SNP and the Green votes are of course both important, but I don't think that Labour's managers can actually be blamed for either of these problems. The rise of intense Scottish Nationalism is a phenomenon that no party has succeeded in addressing, and to which there can be no easy answer. Only a vigorous, practically religious, supranational collectivism would have had any chance, but the only version open to any party was the much less potent Unionism against which the SNP is already in successful rebellion. In any case, supranational collectivism is comparatively weak in the face of nationalism since it appeals only to the vanity of the electorate rather than their pride and self-interest.
With regard to the Greens, it is arguable that Miliband could have tried to make his party appear still more concerned about the environment and opposed to economic growth, but only at the risk of looking absurd in the eyes of some its staunchest supporters. In fact, it is notable that climate change has been almost absent from the election campaign, perhaps confirming suspicions that our anxieties are largely centred on the human sphere; "L'enfer, c'est les autres".
Of all the results, though, it is that of UKIP, which has most relevance to an understanding of the significance of this election, and an also to an evaluation of Mr Cameron's performance. About 3.9 million votes were cast for UKIP, equivalent to a striking 1/3 of the total number cast for Mr Cameron's Conservative party. Furthermore, UKIP's number is an increase of nearly 3 million on 2010.
The electoral counterfactual that should be troubling Conservative party strategists is the scenario in which these voters or at least a quarter of them voted for Mr Cameron and delivered an overwhelming victory rather than the slight though welcome because very surprising majority that has made him Prime Minister once more. Nigel Farage's achievement is to have mobilised a larger number of converts than any other party, and to have done so in the teeth of considerable media opposition, and in spite of fairly aggressive Conservative attempts to bag the game that UKIP were stirring up.
The fact that UKIP's astonishing political creativity has been rewarded with only one seat is bound to cause considerable dismay in that party, and could result in this newly assembled and undisciplined cohort disbanding in disgust. But it might equally cause sufficient anger and general embarrassment to increase pressure for major electoral reform. If we divide the number of votes cast by the number of seats, we find that the three largest parties in parliament have votes per seat ratios in the low tens of thousands: SNP, 26,000; Conservative, 34,000; Labour 40,000. By contrast the Green Party's one MP represents over 1 million voters, and UKIP's Mr Carswell must take his seat in the House of Commons knowing that he is the sole voice in that assembly for 3.9 million people. This is not symptomatic of a democracy in sound health.