Smoke and Mirrors

So, the lion’s share of elections results are in. And what have we discovered?  Not as much as we might first think.  Well, let’s run through things, shall we?

London

It looks like, to all reasonable intents, Ken Livingstone‘s mainstream political career is pretty much toast. His attempt to throw light on Johnson’s tax affairs has backfired spectacularly. Fine, London gets the mayor it deserves. And they’re welcome to him.

More interestingly, while Boris might get the nod as mayor, he may find a more hostile London assembly waiting for his second term.

England

At First sight, it looks as if Labour have had a pretty good night, making some significant gains. For the Conservatives, things are not so rosy. Already Cameron is lining up to blame the usual suspects, still trotting out “the mess we inherited” line. Problem is, I’m not sure people are listening any more and want him to change the record.  His party’s right wing are complaining he’s not being right wing enough, while you can tell that at least some are looking to capture some of those votes from the improving UKIP. Baroness Warsi‘s rather ham-fisted attempts to conflate UKIP and the BNP last night were fairly laughable – even more conservative commentators like Guido Fawkes were commenting on this.

If things are bad for Cameron, for Clegg things are even worse. Thr Lib Dems have been crushed, suffering the worst results in the party’s history. Their share of the vote was unchanged form last year, which was widely seen as calamitous. The now have fewer councillors than ever before. In fights against Labour, it’s clear that the LD’s hve been wiped out. Those who voted in 2010 for the Lib Dems’ have shown their anger at the position Clegg’s party has taken. If people are listening to the Lib Dems, Nick, then people really don’t like what you’re saying.

All the mood music from the coalition parties is carefully choreographed to commiserate with those who lost seats last night, but there’s little there to suggest that they are really listening to the reasons why this has happened. In fact, it seems quite the opposite as the Prime Minister declaims that he will not be persuaded to change course in any way.

Scotland and Wales & NI

As I write, hardly any results  have been declared, though most of the noises are positive for Labour, with the possible exception of Glasgow, which is a special and complex situation.

But…

Here’s the smoke and mirrors bit. Every party has desperately tried to in something positive to cling on to this morning. some have found it more easy than others, but all of them should stop for just a moment to give some thought about the elephant in the room that only Ed Milliband touched on this morning, but even then only every briefly: the turnout.

National turnout is estimated at a mere 32% – the lowest since the turn of the millennium. This should worry everyone. In elections that are supposedly deeply important, not even a third of the electorate have turned out to register their vote. Even worse, Cameron’s “big idea” for elected mayors has met with utter disengagement and a lack of interest from the voters. Pretty much every mayoral referendum looks set to result in a resounding, “No.” It appears that the dissatisfaction with mainstream politics is palpable (and worsening), but the main parties don’t really want to face that. Smaller parties, even allowing for small turnout, have had some bright moments. In UKIP’s case, this may not be about having a growing base, but being able to mobilise that which they already had.

These results don’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know about disaffection with the government, or even about Labours’ fortunes, but Millband looks to have at least bought himself a little more time to push a more progressive Labour agenda. Perhaps a left of centre change of political climate in France, which may happen on Sunday, will change the dynamics of European politics and help him in future months.  All we can do is wait and see.

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2 thoughts on “Smoke and Mirrors

  1. It may be unsafe to conclude that low turnout indicates general disenchantment with political engagement. If everybody were happy with the way things were going then they probably wouldn’t bother to vote either. The two scenarios are indistinguishable, given the evidence.

    However, as there’s plenty of other evidence that we’re not happy bunnies, it’s more likely that the cause is boo rather than yay. The snag is that – although low turnout may be diagnostic of malaise, it may also be diagnostic of – again, indistinguishably – laziness.

    What is possibly more bothersome about the low turnout is the suspicion – which such may consequently engender – that the community probably does care, and probably is pissed off, but not enough to do anything about it and would sooner blame politicians for everything wrong with their lives. Mostly because it’s so easy since politicians pretty much ask for it, exposing themselves in their constant, vain, bids for attention.

    It’s hard to countenance the somewhat jaundiced idea that we’re all complicit in our own misery, but what else do you expect from a not very bright bunch of slowly evolving monkeys?

    Not that I’m losing interest in humanity, y’understand. It’s just that I think it’ll take a few hundred years more. I remain optimistic that – eventually – we’ll settle down into being that enlightened and generous species that our best works suggest we could be.

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    1. All this is true and astutely observed, as I would expect, but I was drawn to the bit where you said:

      “…which such may consequently engender – that the community probably does care, and probably is pissed off, but not enough to do anything about it and would sooner blame politicians for everything wrong with their lives.”

      Maybe the problem is even more subtle: that people are pissed, and want to do something about it, but don’t know what to do because the traditional route of party politics is seemingly collapsing in on itself for a variety of well-documented reasons, some of which even a very few politicians themselves are willing to poke their heads above the parapet and say.

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