After the crushing disappointment of last night (to all right-thinking people who are not smirking old Etonian Nazi space lizards, anyway), there's been much talk of the 2015 general election following the pattern of the 1992 general election, and rightly so, as there certainly are some interesting parallels, mainly in the way the opinion polls had the two major parties running neck and neck in the run-up to polling day, only for it to be apparent from the early exit polls that the Conservatives were getting a much higher percentage of the votes than had been forecast, and then for the number of seats won by the Conservatives to exceed even the number forecast by the exit polls. That pattern was repeated almost step-for-step here, much to many people's chagrin, including my own.
Shy Tory Factor, the theory being that people who intend to vote for right-wing parties tend to selectively lie about their intentions to pollsters. There's a similar thing in the USA called the Bradley effect, but for all that these things have been given names I'm not convinced they exist. It's an awfully persuasive narrative for progressive liberal types, since it implies that conservatives are slightly ashamed of their voting intentions, and SO THEY BLOODY WELL SHOULD BE, right?
Another theory about 1992 is that when voters got in the polling booth and looked the ballot paper in the face they had a last-minute spasm about possibly returning Neil Kinnock as Prime Minister and decided to vote differently. I'm not sure I really buy that either, but since Ed Miliband's own personal approval ratings lagged behind his party's opinion poll ratings throughout the campaign, maybe something similar happened here. Who knows?
Anyway, Ed is no more, and neither is Nick Clegg, while slippery old Nigel Farage managed to fulfil the letter of his promise to resign if he didn't get elected in Thanet South, while making it mean pretty much nothing other than that he's off on his hols and might pick up the job again on his return.
I must confess to feeling a bit sorry for Clegg and the Liberal Democrats - I can't see how they could have done anything other than agree to the Conservative coalition after the 2010 election, given that the slump in Labour's vote meant that Labour plus Liberal Democrats (a more obvious match, on the face of it) wouldn't have had enough seats for a majority. Once that coalition arrangement had been put in place it was always likely to be a bit of a poisoned chalice, though, and when the inevitable happened and Clegg had to back off a key, high-profile manifesto pledge (in this case over tuition fees), they'd probably torpedoed their chances at the next election. Of course the irony is that the voters who turned away from the Liberal Democrats in droves as a punishment for not being able to curb the excesses of a Conservative government now find themselves having helped to install a majority Conservative government unfettered by any need to pay even lip service to keeping more liberal types onside. As if to prove the point, and as a sort of symbolic FUCK YOU to their erstwhile coalition partners, I see the Conservatives have immediately stated an intention to revive their horrifyingly illiberal snoopers' charter. Nice.
I must confess to feeling a bit sorry for Ed Balls as well: a lumbering and charmless politician no doubt but one who (since Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling aren't around to be blamed any more) became the focus of all the wholly bogus Conservative rhetoric about government borrowing under the last Labour administration, and wasn't either self-confident enough to refute it or nimble enough to dodge it. But, we'll always have Ed Balls Day.
Obviously there were a few high points, notably the deposing of George Galloway in Bradford (and his possibly getting prosecuted into the bargain, though sadly I imagine that almost certainly won't happen), Caroline Lucas keeping her seat for the Greens in Brighton, and my vote actually counting for something in returning Jessica Morden with a slightly increased Labour majority in my constituency of Newport East (helped, it must be said, by a collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote).
So, doom and gloom, then? Well, frankly, yes. But I have answers! Watch this space....