It was a brutal night and above all, a story of polarisation. The centre, very definitively, could not hold. They certainly couldn’t hold any seats. The election surely signifies the destruction of Britain’s third voice, the Lib Dems, with deposits tumbling through the night and the stars of the party booted into oblivion.
It was clear from the start that the electorate had no time for the gang which after all has been in coalition with the Conservatives for five years. Jeremy Vine built a virtual house of cards with Lib Dem faces on it, and watched as it collapsed. In some cases, Lib Dem candidates ended up coming behind the Greens, and only achieved three-figure results. Meanwhile even the big Lib Dem beasts were, essentially, toast.
It didn’t matter how experienced you were, or how much work in the last government you had done. Vince Cable was kicked out, Danny Alexander ditto, even the veteran Lib Dem London MP Simon Hughes lost his seat. David Laws lost Paddy Ashdown’s seat of Yeovil. Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Lib Dems, was voted out. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg took Sheffield Hallam, but only just.
Scotland has spoken its mind, but so has England, with Ukip coming second in many seats across the country, including Doncaster North, Ed Miliband’s seat. David Cameron is going to have to cope with absolutely no friends in the centre, thanks to the collapse of the Lib Dems, while the country veers to the left up north, and to the right down south, and possibly faces the nightmare of being the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. “The political wind from the north is going to make very heavy weather in Westminster,” said pundit Lord Hennessy early this morning.
What will happen to the Lib Dems? Surely with around 8 per cent of national support, only a handful of MPs left, and even historical strongholds such as Cornwall utterly blown away, Clegg’s party has no mandate to exist, and he must step down as leader and scurry to the back benches, there to exist as an anomaly.
More fundamentally, these results are a bloody nose for the whole notion of coalition, which is something David Cameron may yet need in order to achieve a meaningful majority. After all, who is going to want to get into bed with the Conservatives if what will happen in five years’ time is the decimation of their own party?
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