I’ve taken a few days for the hangover and shock to fade before writing this, so that the figures and swings and gut reactions had time to settle.
Firstly, it has to be said that the Conservatives did not win this election as much as their opponents handed it to them.
The Liberal Democrats – who may well have entered the Coalition with the best of intentions – suffered badly for the crime of laying down with the Tories, losing 2/3 of their votes and effectively handing rural England to the Conservatives unopposed.
That was where the election was won. Scotland had little to do with it in the end.
Labour’s losses in Scotland made a majority for them impossible, but their failure to win over middle England allowed the Tory majority. Indeed, if you take Scotland out of the equation, Labour made net gains in terms of votes and seats, it’s just that those victories were rendered meaningless by the larger Tory gains and the loss of Scotland became a sideshow.
Labour failed to make their case, squeezed from left and right they equivocated and convinced few undecided voters. They have some serious soul-searching to do, having lost all the ground won by Blair AND their Scottish heartland in one fell swoop.
Secondly, this is an election where the concept of uniform or national swings has been made to seem ridiculous. Everyone apart from the Liberals gained votes and UKIP gained by far the most but it’s inconceivable to think that voters left the Lib Dems to cast for UKIP. Instead, what we must assume is a complex dance of swings and roundabouts.
This complexity has been rendered inert by a broken and unrepresentative voting system which has produced a majority government with less than 37% of the vote nationwide and practically no mandate in Scotland at all.
The 2015 election bears more than a passing resemblance to 1992 where polls predicted a Labour win but the election resulted in an increased Conservative majority, only for that majority to be picked clean via by-elections and internal dissent, all of which contributed to the perception of a weak, corrupt government and Labour’s thumping win in 1997.
With the immediate question of an in-out EU referendum, the increased calls for electoral reform and the whole problem of Scotland, David Cameron might well see this as ‘the sweetest victory’ but with a slender majority and dubious mandate he does not have an easy five years ahead.
This election produced an unexpected result that almost seems inevitable in hindsight, and that result is dispiriting to many.
However, despite the apparent victory for the establishment, a compelling case has been made for progressive change, voting reform and against austerity.