Election 2015: Was it really a shock, and what should we expect next time?

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A little more than a week has now passed following the surprise result of the General Election, where David Cameron was returned to Downing Street with an increased vote share and an increased majority. The outcome left most puzzled at what had happened, as nearly everyone predicted that the country would be engulfed with the discourse that comes with Hung Parliament negotiations for a number of weeks. However, I predict that in the future, people will look back on this election result without surprise. People will look back and consider that the result was an obvious outcome for two main reasons.David_Cameron_official

Firstly, people will look to the economy. For the full five years of the last Parliament, polls showed that voters always trusted the Conservatives more with the economy than Labour. Considering that the economy is the main concern for voters when they cast their ballot, it should have been a foregone conclusion that voters would repay this trust at the ballot box. Secondly, leadership. Polls constantly showed David Cameron to be miles ahead of Ed Miliband regarding which of the two men people saw as the better leader and most Prime Ministerial. Like the economy, this is also likely to have played a significant part in swaying voters who to cast their ballot for.

Whilst watching Question Time last week, Alastair Campbell (New Labour’s much loved-hated-then loved again) spin doctor commended the Tories for being ‘ruthless bastards’. Despite many possible translations, I believe the point that Campbell was getting at was that he believed the Conservatives won the election because they have the conviction to do anything to win. Whatever your partisan allegiance, it  must be admitted that the Conservatives ran a very effective campaign. Even myself, a Conservative Party supporter (as most of my friends will, I’m sure, duly testify), believed that the campaign was perhaps too narrow and not doing enough to engage voters. However, Cameron, on the advice of Lynton Crosby and Jim Messina, religiously stuck to a few central themes throughout the campaign, so that when voters went to the ballot box, they knew what the Conservative message was about: the economy, leadership and the SNP. The last theme, Crosby’s ‘wedge issue’, delivered the goods for Cameron. When early key English marginal’s such as Swindon North and Nuneaton were declared for the Conservatives, it was clear that it was game, set and match for Cameron. He was also able to capitalise on the decreased vote share of the Lib Dems, with the Tories taking all of the seats in the South West. I myself could not help feeling sorry for some Lib Dems, such as Danny Alexander, and I do feel that in future people will look back on the party’s time in Coalition more favourably. At the 2005 election, the Lib Dems had a ‘Decapitation Strategy’ in place. This was where they attempted to pick off key Conservative politicians in areas such as the South West. That strategy failed then, and what is most ironic is that a perfect example of how such a strategy could have worked was seen in this election… with the Lib Dems being the victims.

The next five years will be an interesting time in British politics, especially considering the fact that both the Conservatives and Labour will have new leaders by the time of the next election. The Labour Party is in need of a complete revamp if it is to have a chance of winning the 2020 election. However, their leadership battle has not got off to the best of starts. Today Chuka Umunna, the young, centrist candidate, dropped out of the race. In addition Dan Jarvis, the likeable and respected backbencher, ruled himself out of the contest before it had even begun. This has left the field dominated by favourites (Burnham and Cooper) who do not reflect the change that Labour need to be electable again. Do I think that the party, in order to be successful again, must repeat what the Conservatives did in 2005, and choose an unknown, fresh quantity to be its leader? You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment. (If you got that reference, then we’d get on well).

With respect to the Conservatives, as Cameron has declared that he’ll go sometime towards the end of the Parliament, manoeuvring has already begun over who will succeed him. Boris Johnson is an obvious choice, but is he taken seriously enough? The reshuffle certainly helped George Osborne’s chances (everyone who once served as his PPS is now in the Cabinet), but does he have the broad appeal? Theresa May is certainly a competent minister, but does she have the personality for it? Sajid Javid is definitely a rising star, but are there others ‘in line’ before him? My money is on either Johnson or Javid, with the battle being framed around who can give the party the best hope of winning another election. Whatever the outcome, I hope the ‘Draft Jacob Rees-Mogg campaign’ at least makes some headway.

All in all, whilst it is clear that the election result was exciting and unexpected, it is clear that in the coming years, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting. That’s all for now folks, but stayed tuned in.

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Roberto Di Paola is a Politics with International Relations student and former Secretary of the Bath University Politics Society (2014/15). He writes about national British politics.

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