Election Reflections: How the Parties Performed

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It’s all over, or at least the part that we have a say in is. The result of last Thursday’s election took pretty much the whole country by surprise, though with such a massive variation between polling forecasts it’s fair to say that there was always going to be at least one accurate-ish prediction. On this occasion, it came from YouGov.

So how did each of the big political parties fare? Here’s a rundown through the fortunes of the so-called ‘big six’, including the mark we’d give them if they were assessed in the same way that we are at University …

Conservatives

Seats: 318 including Speaker John Bercow (down 13 from 2015)

Vote share: 42.4% (up 5.5% from 2015).

Prior to the result being announced, I was predicting a Conservative majority of around 80 and was gobsmacked to see that, whilst they remain the UK’s largest party, they weren’t able to command an overall majority (over 326) in the Commons on their own. Hot takes abound as to the reasons behind this: points of consensus appear to be that Theresa May underestimated both the challenge and her opponents and that unpopular policies including the so-called Dementia Tax caused traditional supporters to ditch the Tories. The Conservatives look set to squeeze back into Government thanks to the support of the DUP (who have ten MPs based in Northern Ireland), though many have concerns about the DUP’s extremely socially conservative views and the potential strength and stability of any agreement between the two factions.

Verdict: 42.4% – the same as their vote share. Theresa May has just about done well enough to make it through her first year as Prime Minister with a little help from her friends. Big challenges including making deals with her (European) neighbours, maintaining existing friendships and building new ones lie ahead in the second.

Labour

Seats: 262 (up 30)

Vote share: 40.0% (up 9.6%)

Even senior figures within the Labour Party didn’t foresee the results of this election, with resources poured into seats including Hove and Leicester West in the expectation that they may be lost. In the end MPs such as Peter Kyle and Liz Kendall ended up increasing their majorities. Nicky Morgan’s majority in Loughborough was halved by Jewel Miah, Labour’s local candidate. There were also Labour gains, including plenty from the Conservatives and a few in Scotland. Many see the outcome as a vindication of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership (which moderates including myself have taken issue with in the past) thanks to an overwhelmingly positive campaign which resulted in young people turning out in droves. The only downside is that despite confounding expectations, Labour fell short of an overall majority by quite some distance, and though #JC4PM now seems that little bit less fantastical, it’s unlikely to be on the cards again until the next time we have a chance to vote.

Verdict: 68% – certainly better than the failure that they were expecting, though still not quite the first which they really need. Perhaps over the next year they’ll be able to pick up the marks required to get out of ‘close but not quite close enough’ territory and build on their newfound popularity.

Scottish National Party

Seats: 35 (down 21)

Vote share: 3.0% (down 1.7%)

Unless they were able to take the three Scottish seats which they missed out on two years ago or gain ground south of the border, the best case scenario was always going to be more of the same for the SNP after a stellar result in 2015. Some speculate that it was Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s desire for a divisive second independence referendum which prompted voters to switch to a Tory Party led by Ruth Davidson north of the border or to allow themselves to be wooed by Labour’s resurgence. The Party’s parliamentary presence will be less formidable in the absence of Deputy Leader Angus Robertson (who has a knack of asking difficult questions about Brexit) and former Leader Alex Salmond, so it will be fascinating to see how the Party fares over the next few months and who is chosen to replace them.

Verdict: 62% – it was always likely to be difficult for them to do any better than last time around, but even so they may well feel that they could have done better. They’ll come back next year weaker than they were before, but will still have a desire to enjoy more freedom than they’re currently allowed and be intent on ensuring that those in charge should not be allowed to do as they please.

Liberal Democrats

Seats: 12 (up 4)

Vote share: 7.4% (down 0.5%)

It was a mixed night for the Lib Dems, best symbolised by the departure of former Leader Nick Clegg (whose loss is likely to be celebrated by many students, but who it’s fair to say is an a valued and almost unparalleled authority on the intricacies of Brexit) and a return to the Commons for the popular former Business Secretary Vince Cable. Lib Dem supporters may have hoped to win more seats given widespread satisfaction with Brexit amongst young people. In contrast, some predicted a catastrophic night in which even the few seats which they held would be under threat. Their low baseline from 2015 (which Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson said meant they “couldn’t be a strong opposition in a baton-twirling contest”) meant that this time around the only way was up, though their anti-Brexit stance and rumoured support for a second referendum on the topic may have turned off some more pragmatic voters.

Verdict: 58% – They did better than their disappointing performance last time around, but failed to get near to mark which they achieved all the way back in 2010 (when they won 57 seats and entered Government alongside the Tories). Next time, they’ll need to look at issues including distrust from fellow students and playground rumours that their Leader disapproves of homosexuality.

Green Party

Seats: 1 (no change)

Vote share: 1.6 % (down 2.1%)

On paper, the Greens (who are pretty funny on Twitter) didn’t do very well at all, with their vote share falling by more than a half – which is ironic given that they’ve got twice as many people at the helm as they did at the last election. As it turns out, many Greens may feel cheered by the potential prospect of a ‘Progressive Alliance’, which they pursued by not standing candidates in some contests or not actively campaigning in certain seats, which they will argue contributed to victories for fellow left-wingers including the Labour MPs Wes Streeting and Clive Lewis. Co-Leader Caroline Lucas remains their only MP and some may be worried by the fact that the Party came third in Bristol West, which was seen at one time as winnable and where Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire ended up increasing her vote share by 30%. While the Party may be excited by the idea of a ‘progressive’ future coalition, I’d imagine that some members will be unhappy that more Green MPs won’t be in the House when Parliament reconvenes.

Verdict: 45% – we know they could probably do a better job if they applied themselves, and they’ve got a bit of a habit of not turning up or really doing enough when they do (in certain seats). Those who are apparently mates with them love them when they’re out, though others wonder whether it’s a strategy which will work out for them in the long run.

UKIP

Seats: 0 (down 1)

Vote share: 1.8 % (down 10.8%)

Let’s be honest, they’ve had a stinker, haven’t they?  Leader Paul Nuttall, who came third in Boston and Skegness where he was standing, has already resigned, and also apparently deleted his Twitter account. With the Party’s support expected to crumble thanks to the UK’s decision to leave the EU, many were predicting that its former supporters would gift Theresa May a huge mandate and while we’re unsure what really happened there, what we do know is that they certainly deserted Nuttall’s Party. A manifesto which proposed banning the Burkha to allow Muslim women to absorb more vitamin D and ban schools from rewarding children with yellow star stickers (reminiscent of the EU flag) led to widespread derision. Such a dramatic rejection from their former supporters will lead many to question the reasons behind the Party’s continuing existence and its frequent presence on national TV and radio.

Verdict: 23% – Nobody’s entirely sure what their reason is for being here, and are sort of wondering why they’re still at Uni when they’re clearly not very good at it. More people would probably feel sorry for them if they didn’t have a tendency to be quite so outrageous, even if their obvious lack of competence can occasionally lead to light relief at stressful times.

Liam David Hopley
Head of Design

All figures courtesy of Wikipedia: http://bit.ly/2r8tpKF

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