This is not a post about election systems. It is a post about the pattern of election results in the UK general election on 6th May 2010. The thinking here is still rather vague, but I think there’s something to it.
The best that UK political commentators ever seem to do is talk about national swings and, if you’re lucky, get in some passing reference to Wales and Scotland. I reckon the 2010 election makes a mockery of that, and that the UK should be viewed as 6 regions instead. Numbers 1-3 are the most important developments.
- The Midlands and The North – typified by enduring support for Labour, even in areas where the demography would indicate that the Conservatives would have greater chances. Sporadic breakthroughs for the Liberal Democrats, but not in fights against the Conservatives.
- Anywhere within 75 miles of London, but not London itself – typified by very strong results for the Conservatives, cleaning up in suburban towns in the commuter belt. Labour persists only in pockets of former working town poverty.
- London – more leftist and tolerant than the rest of England, yet an electorate showing an increasing degree of sophistication to return parties of a different colour to Westminster than were voted to the borough councils. Lib Dems struggle, and in poor areas Labour strengthen. Some minor Conservative gains in richer areas.
- Northern Ireland – most clearly on its own. All the parties are different from the rest of the UK.
- Scotland – the SNP minority administration, and four-party competition give it a genuinely unique flavour, typified this time by the Labour vote holding up rather well, the SNP doing much less well than for elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Lib Dems steady, and the Conservatives failing to make any headway.
- Wales – parallels with Scotland work only as far as they concern the Nationalists. Labour suffered losses to the Conservatives to a greater extent than in Scotland, and Lib Dems failed to make breakthroughs.
Considering that England is the home of more than 80% of the UK electorate I think we need to be a little more nuanced in how we analyze what’s going on there – and the recent election shows these differing tendencies very clearly.