It was without doubt one of the longest and most arduous election campaigns in British electoral history. Most of the polls right up to May 7th was indicating that the public would not elect a majority government. And the polls were not the only ones who were wrong, I was also wrong.
I made a bold prediction during the campaign; UKIP would land 10 seats and a 20% vote share. What I failed to realize or understand was the power of First Past The Post, a system that is geared towards two party politics and not the multi-party politics that is now representing the electorate. They have a similar system in the good old USA, the land of the free and all that jazz.
UKIP managed to attract 12.6% of the vote, which was a 9.5% improvement on the party’s election performance in 2010; remember this was when the party was using a manifesto that Farage has called ‘drivel’. But it was not these figures alone or the majority Conservative government that was the story. The real story was the combined performance of the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and UKIP.
Firstly the Lib Dem vote has completely collapsed. They only attracted 7.9% of the vote, which was a huge loss of 15.2% comparatively with the 2010 election. If that wasn’t bad enough for their party, they lost an eye-watering 49 seats. This left the Lib Dems completely decimated with only eight MPs; Vince Cable and Danny Alexander were among the high profile exits for them, and ultimately this cost Nick Clegg his leadership. Early signs are that Tim Farron is the most likely candidate to succeed Mr Clegg.
North of the border something really incredible took place, the SNP practically wiped out the Labour Party and left Ed Miliband and Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy clutching at straws. The SNP didn’t just win the election in Scotland; it was a complete and total landslide. The Scottish nationalists who were cannily led by Nicola Sturgeon gained a sensational 50 seats, to finish on 56 seats. However their vote share was only 4.7% nationally. It doesn’t seem fair to me that a party with such a small vote share can get so many seats.
This is because comparatively with UKIP in terms of vote share, both of these parties only matched UKIP. Yet UKIP only have one seat in Westminster, a lone wolf in Clacton MP Douglas Carswell. UKIP also gained nearly four million votes, which was more or less what the party attracted during the European Election. That voting system for that parliament uses PR voting, where UKIP gained 24 seats in 2014. If you look at the results for FPTP and compare them to PR voting results you will see a marked improvement for the so called fringe parties.
True to his word during the election campaign UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage stood down from the party. This lead to the party members starting a petition to reinstate the charismatic leader. Nigel seemed determined to go on holiday and forget about what had happened. Suzanne Evans was recommended by Mr Farage to take over as interim leader until September, when an election would have been held to decide who leads UKIP. However over the course of the weekend Douglas Carswell and Paul Nuttall both ruled out leading UKIP. This had led to speculation that something was cooking in the party kitchen.
Sure enough the party pulled a rabbit from the hat, it has almost reminded me of the scene from Wolf of Wall Street where Jordan Belfort announces “I’m not leaving” to his employees. Although I seriously doubt that there was dancing in the room at UKIP’s NEC headquarters, I am sure that they are relieved as no one seemed to be taking much interest in the vacant leaders position.
In a nutshell, Mr Farage tendered his official resignation with a letter, however after being presented with a petition and endorsements from other UKIP members and candidates he decided to stay. I for one am absolutely delighted he has had a change of heart. I have gone from the depths of despair, to being a very happy man again. It really just does show how quickly things can change in politics.
One of the reasons Mr Farage has stayed is I believe because he wants to campaign for political reform. He isn’t alone in wanting to campaign for Proportional Representation. Douglas Carswell and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas have been quoted as being aligned on this issue. At the time of writing we have a petition with 250,000 signatures on it. So surely Mr Cameron will need to act on this issue and call another referendum. It is important to remember that FPTP won the last referendum and there is no guarantee that the Prime Minister will act.
That all said there is a fundamental reason that Farage has changed his mind. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that after nearly 20 years campaigning he wants to lead the debate for Britain’s amicable divorce from the EU. Cameron’s first test in his negotiation isn’t far away as the EU would like to put through legislation for unilateral policy on asylum and migration, especially with the crisis growing in the Mediterranean Sea.
There are also growing noises from the majority government that the referendum could be moved to 2016. I do wonder after the two televised debates which Mr Farage won with Nick Clegg, will the PM debate the issue with Nigel Farage? Or will he run and hide behind the Green Party just like he did during the election debates?
Either way Nigel’s decision to stay is going to keep making politics relevant and interesting. Not only that, he seems to be the only politician willing to say what needs to be said. He will continue to hold the establishment to account, not only domestically but in Europe. Nigel has also positioned himself to run in the next by election in a Labour held seat where UKIP did so well in the North of the UK. So let’s watch this space and see what the charismatic leader comes up with next.