John Curtice: Mixed messages for everyone – except Salmond and Clegg

Analysis

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

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 6 Teacher required - Cardiff

£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Professional Training: Randstad E...

HR Advisor - Camden / Kentish Town, North London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - Camden / Ken...

Year 5 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Year 5 class teacher vacan...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Learning Supp...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week