Monday, June 12, 2017

Psephology Rocks: "And That's Why You Never Call A Snap Election..."


Before we start, a moment of schaudenfreude: hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Okay, now that's out of the way, let's get down to Brass Tacks. As I'm sure you and the rest of the world have already realized, the election that Prime Minister Theresa May was under no obligation whatsoever to call and yet inexplicably did in an attempt to "strengthen her mandate" ahead of Brexit negotiations didn't go the way she wanted too, like, at all. Instead of increasing her majority- she lost her majority and is having to cuddle up to the British equivalent of the Republican Party of [Insert State South of the Mason-Dixon Line Here] just to cling, by the skin of her teeth to power.

Snap elections and minority governments have this tendency not to really work all that well, if at all. I'd be banking on another election- maybe this year, more likely next year- but soon. It really does depend on how the next few weeks shake out.

I think what was probably the most interesting thing about this election was that it was such a bundle of contradictions all over the place. Looking at the results, you have to wonder how it all ended up in such a muddle. The Conservatives increased their vote share and won the most votes, but managed to lose seats. UKIP, having, well, kipped out of the EU didn't really find much of a reason to exist and/or connect with voters so it's share of the vote crashed hard, but didn't produce uniform results across the country. I saw swings to the Conservatives in some seats in the Northeast, but those produced Labour wins- but I also saw a lot of working class (presumably 'Leave') voters seeming to flip back to Labour as well.

It's not as if voters sent a clear message about Brexit either. The Liberal Democrats, who have been the most solidly pro-European party in the wake of Brexit and who were calling for any Brexit deal to be put to the voters (I'm pretty sure) and/or having another referendum on the issue altogether had something of a mixed night. They clawed their way back into double digits in terms of seats and Vince Cable recovered his Twickenham seat while their leader Tim Farron retained his, but former Deputy PM Nick Clegg lost his seat in Sheffield. Their overall vote share is down 0.5% on the election- and they've been the loudest and most vocal 'Remain' party in the wake of the Brexit Mess. Don't know if British voters aren't interesting in rehashing the whole debate or what. (I might do a deep dive into the date to see if they were running ahead of Labour and behind the Tories in some places...)

North of the border, it felt like a totally different election. Ruth Davidson made the SNP's demand for a second independence referendum post-Brexit, the central issue of the campaign and voters seemed to agree with her. The Conservatives picked up 12 seats, which in Scotland is ludicrous. (But then, reading this, maybe not.) The SNP's vote share dropped by 13 percentage points and even Labour and the Lib Dems showed signs of life, picking up six and three seats respectively from the SNP. But it was the Conservatives who really had a good night- taking down SNP's Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson and former SNP Leader and First Minister Alex Salmond. (I haven't the faintest idea what these means for Scottish politics, except that, I'm guessing they really don't want another independence referendum at the moment?)

Some final thoughts in no particular order:

1. Democrats need to take a breath before getting all excited over these Jeremy Corbyn pieces popping up over here, while there's an argument to be made that it's time to put the full Bernie to the country and see what voters think, the larger (and more effective) argument is that when you're running against someone who's going to make it all about them (as May did with her 'strong and stable leadership') then get a really good platform and run on that instead. Tell the voters what you want to do and how you're going to do it (and pay for it) and voters will respond. They did in the UK, they will here. At the very least, stop letting the media define your party message and quit trying to out Trump Trump. That ain't gonna happen, which means you need to prove that your policies and ideas are better than his. (This piece more of less says that. And I agree.)

2. An Sign of the Apocalypse To Come: Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. (No, seriously... I'm sure the knives are out already and Tory leadership contests make what Brutus did to Caeser on the Senate floor look like a tickling match.) If they avoid a leadership knife fight, it'll be a miracle- just don't bank on BoJo being the first one to make a move this time. (In public, thus far, BoJo is backing the Prime Minister- and in private he seems to be keeping his powder dry for now. Reading the tea leaves, I'd say there's a reason Michael Gove is back in the Cabinet- probably to send a message to BoJo to behave. We'll see if it works, but I'd still bank on a leadership change within a year.)

3. I think... think Hard Brexit is probably off the table.

4. Theresa May ran a terrible campaign and she thoroughly deserved this result. It was also somewhat grimly ironic that in the wake of two terrorist attacks the right wing British media (well, the Telegraph, anyway) was awash with stories about Corbyn and his 'terrorist sympathies' to try and paper over the fact that as Home Secretary, May had been slashing police budgets and numbers and telling them to do more with less. Given a choice between the Minister cutting police all over the place or the guy who says the (questionable) things you'd expect a militant hard leftist to say, voters apparently felt they should go with the guy who wanted more police, not less. Oops.

5. Modern technology is amazing. I watched election returns LIVE direct from the Beeb on Twitter of all things all the way over in America. This was a glorious, glorious mess of an election and I loved watching every minute of it. (Especially Mr. Fishfinger and Lord Buckethead)

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