We all thought we were now firmly in the era of hung parliaments. Gone would be the days of one party majorities ruling over us in a way that had become the norm since 1945. Then the Tories proved us all wrong.
Into this idea of the “new” politics was that parties were going to have to work together now and in the future. This was very much an idea from the left of centre, and it was built on the hope from many that Labour could be in the centre of a coalition perhaps, with maybe the Greens or something that would take the place of the Lib Dems when those pesky yellow Tories were trounced. It was plural and wonderful, supposedly.
But I think, in a way, this is why people voted for the Tories in numbers higher than anyone, the pollster and the Conservative Party itself, expected. The British people didn’t want the “new” politics; they quite like the old stuff, thank you very much. This was why, when I reflect on it, the country rejected the Alternative Vote so roundly. The whole Clegg thing was a sideshow, really: people just didn’t want to do anything that would make multi-party government more likely.
The biggest problem with the whole concept of the “new” politics as espoused by the Left, apart from the British people not wanting it which is kind of important in a democracy, is that all of the non-Tory parties aren’t simply factions of the same underlying ideology. They are in fact made of groups with very, very different ideas about the country, often times opposing views. Nationalism, socialism and liberalism aren’t different ingredients in a left of centre stew; they are opposing forces that cannot exist together in a buddy buddy sort of fashion.
So faced with a group of people who all hate each other and proclaim inclusiveness while ripping chunks off of one another, the electorate, of England anyhow, chose what they saw as a safe pair of hands. The Lib Dems, trying to bridge the gap between the two streams by being pro-pluralist while not wedded the Left’s version of it, got crushed. What’s amazing is that the Tories managed to achieve all of this while not being particularly conservative. They are proposing measures that could take Britain out of the EU, severely shrink the role of the state and indeed, end the country itself as we know it if Scotland leaves it. But they were the most conservative item on the menu and so people picked them, probably reluctantly in a large number of cases as the mystery of the faulty polls suggest.
What does all this mean? Almost certainly, a long spell of Tory rule, much as we saw throughout the 20th century, until some other non-Tory party can get the timing just right, having the right leader in place that can capture the country exactly when they are eager and ready for a change. What that change is, I hope I’m still alive to see.