John Curtice: Mixed messages for everyone – except Salmond and Clegg
Saturday 07 May 2011
Thursday's pot pourri of elections produced one clear winner, the Scottish National Party, one clear loser, the Liberal Democrats, and mixed messages for both the Conservatives and Labour.
In securing an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament the SNP certainly stole the show. Although the opinion polls had registered a dramatic swing to the SNP during the course of the campaign, none had suggested the SNP were doing well enough to secure an overall majority. But in practice seats that had hitherto been safely Labour fell like ninepins. The nationalists even outpolled Labour in terms of both votes and seats throughout Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
The SNP's success blighted what was otherwise a reasonably good if far from outstanding night for Labour. The BBC projected Labour's performance as the equivalent of a 37 per cent vote in a general election, up 10 points on its doleful performance in the local elections that coincided with last year's general election. That confirmed that Labour are politically competitive once more, though it was only enough to put it two points ahead of the Conservatives.
At roughly 800 seats, Labour's net gains fell short of the target of 1,000 seats that some commentators suggested the party needed to show it really was back on the road to recovery. Part of Labour's problem was that its vote increased most in traditional Labour territory – the North and working class seats with relatively large levels of unemployment – a pattern that reduced the yield its advance produced in terms of seats.
The Conservatives suffered in Scotland too, leaving the party with its worst ever result in Scotland. But in Wales the party enjoyed a modest increase in support and claimed second place in the Assembly from Plaid Cymru. Meanwhile its performance in the local elections was on a par with last year's. For every seat it lost to Labour it seemed to gain one from the Liberal Democrats, leaving the party with a surprise net increase in seats. For a party in government, the Conservatives will doubtless see this as an achievement.
But there was little to temper the carnage suffered by the Liberal Democrats. Its projected national share in the local elections was, at 15 per cent, its worst ever local election performance since the party's formation in 1988, costing the party nearly 700 seats. Together with the Conservatives, the party's vote fell particularly heavily in wards it was defending and in wards with large numbers of students – the party appears to have lost a significant portion of its core constituency.
Little wonder Nick Clegg has already signalled that he and his colleagues are to adopt a more robust approach in their dealings with the Conservatives in future.
John Curtice is professor of politics at Strathclyde University
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 The top 50 cities for young people to live in
General Election 2015: Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind as he casts a line to the disaffected of Grimsby
Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
Russian warships accused of 'chasing away' Swedish vessel to prevent Baltic States from achieving energy independence
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...