Monday 5 December 2016

Joan Burton & Labour look away - six things we've learned from the UK election

Published 08/05/2015 | 08:12

Prime Minister David Cameron (left) walks past a candidate man dressed as Elmo during the General Election count at the Windrush Leisure Centre in Witney. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 8, 2015. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Prime Minister David Cameron (left) walks past a candidate man dressed as Elmo during the General Election count at the Windrush Leisure Centre in Witney. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 8, 2015. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Here are six things we've learned from a very long night.

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1. Polls can get it wrong.... apart from the broadcasters' joint poll that is

David Cameron was joined on the stage for the declaration of the Witney constituency result by Elmo
David Cameron was joined on the stage for the declaration of the Witney constituency result by Elmo
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron smiles as he arrives for the general election count in Witney, Britain May 8, 2015
A Conservative team member wears a David Cameron mask in Coleshill Leisure Centre in Coleshill during the General Election 2015 count. Photo: Simon Cooper/PA Wire
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron greets supporters as he arrives at the counting centre for his local constituency as ballots are tallied in Britain's general election in Witney, May 8, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville
An advertising van with images of Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and leader of the opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband drives around Parliament Square, central London, Britain. REUTERS/Phil Noble

For weeks, opinion polls have put the Conservatives and Labour level with the Tory party marginally ahead.

Polls were predicting somewhere in the region of 270 to 280 seats for both parties, with Nicola Sturgeon's SNP holding the balance of power.

"Neck and Neck" and "too close to call" were used so often as the media ran out of other terms to describe it.

So there was huge shock at 10pm last night when the BBC/ITN/Sky exit poll was released - putting the Conservatives at 316 seats, and Labour less than 240.

Worse still, coalition partners the Liberal Democrats were put at 10.

Former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown declared live on BBC that he would "eat his hat" if the poll turned out to be correct. Labour's Yvette Cooper said they found the exit poll "puzzling", while David Cameron was "quietly pleased" as he sat down to a meat pie and broccoli while glued to his TV (this was actually reported on Sky at 11pm last night).

In a matter of seconds, the exit poll turned this election on its head and cast aside everything commentators and the parties themselves had been predicting in the last few weeks.

Read more here: Eaten hats and broken swingometers  

2. Does austerity work?

David Cameron and his chancellor for the exchequer George Osborne believe that the electorate ultimately went with their economic message - austerity was tough but things will get better with the Conservatives.

Tánaiste Joan Burton
Tánaiste Joan Burton
Joan Burton
Labour Party Leader Joan Burton pictured with Labours Director of Elections for the referendum campaign, Alex White as they launched the Labour Party Marriage Equality Campaign at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin this afternoon
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan: their ‘Spring Statement’ won’t win them the Election

The markets seemed to think so last night - with the British pound gaining against the US dollar just moments after the exit poll results were broadcast. The financial markets around the world liked what they saw.

Read more here: Shocks from General Election counts  

3. What can the Irish government parties take from this?

This result can provide Fine Gael with some hope - the Conservatives doled out some tough austerity measures during the last five years. However, many will argue (and rightly) that they weren't as tough as measures Fine Gael have introduced.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon casts her vote at Broomhouse Community Hall polling station in Glasgow. Photo: PA
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon casts her vote at Broomhouse Community Hall polling station in Glasgow. Photo: PA
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon reacts with her supporters after watching on the big screen their gains in UK parliamentary election at the General Election count for Glasgow constituencies at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon as she arrives at the General Election count for Glasgow constituencies at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon marks the final day of campaigning in the UK election with a speech to activists in Edinburgh. Photo: Getty Images

However, it might have been the case of better the devil you know than the devil you don't for voters - it seems they might have stuck with Cameron and Osborne because they knew what to expect, and believe them when they say the age of austerity is nearing an end, while Labour's Ed Miliband was too much of an "unknown quantity" for voters.

However, Joan Burton and Labour won't take too much hope from this campaign - junior coalition party the Liberal Democrats were annihilated. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's party lost a staggering 48 seats and were struggling to ten seats this morning.

If the Conservatives miss out on an overall majority and turn to the Lib Dems for support, it's hard to see which way they'll go. Go into power with Cameron again, their influence will be far less than last time around as they haven't the numbers. If they return to the opposition benches, they will be a small party with no influence at all but can concentrate on rebuilding from the bottom up.

Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), leaves after voting at his polling station in Ramsgate, southeast England. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), leaves after voting at his polling station in Ramsgate, southeast England. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), leaves after voting at his polling station in Ramsgate REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
Sign of Britain's uneasy gut: Ukip leader Nigel Farage holds a flag bearing a St George’s Cross as he enjoys a pint of beer on St George’s day
Admiration: UKIP leader Nigel Farage comes across as a man of the people

One of the reasons for the Lib Dem rout is being put down to broken promises and the u-turn on tuition fees - Burton and her Labour party should take note.

Read more here: Clegg expected to step down as leader  

4. Will there be a 'Brexit'?

Cameron promised the British public a referendum on EU membership in 2016 - he's now going to deliver on this.

And it's impossible to know which way it will go.

If there is an exit from the EU, the economic implications for Ireland could be vast and could bring back border controls.

Read more here: Borris wins with huge majority  

5. What next for Scotland and Nicola Sturgeon?

They have 56 seats in the bag and party leader Nicola Sturgeon has had an amazing election. The SNP have gained all seats in Scotland bar two.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband at Doncaster Racecourse after retaining his seat in the General Election. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband at Doncaster Racecourse after retaining his seat in the General Election. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Ed Miliband
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and his wife Justine after casting their votes at Sutton village hall in Doncaster. Photo: PA

But what next?

It's thought the SNP might have held the balance of power, but this doesn't appear to be the case any more following the Conservative's comprehensive victory.

But the SNP now have a sizeable group in Westminster with sizeable public support.

It was thought if they went into power with Labour, they would have demanded a second referendum on Scottish independence.

They won't have that option now - but their MPs will create a lot of noise in Westminster. Noise that no prime minister can ignore.

Read more here: How the story of the UK General Election 2015 unfolded  

6. UKIP and Nigel Farage

Farage had an absolute hissy fit on Sky News last night - blaming the Daily Mail and The Sun for his party's dismal showing in the election.

He "congratulated" both titles for helping the Conservative vote before storming away from the media. But don't feel too sorry for him when he complains about unfair treatment at the hands of the media - the Daily Express very publicly got behind Farage.

We heard so much about the UKIP threat in the run-up to the elections - but the last few weeks have shown that it was Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP who were the runaway stars in this election. UKIP does not appear to have made any impact at all on the Conservative vote.

Before last night's count, Farage said he would resign "within ten minutes" if he didn't win a seat in Westminster. He is not on course to win a seat in Parliament.

If UKIP lose Farrage and gain just the two expected seats in Westminster, questions about the future of the party will be asked.

Indeed, Farrage could be one of three political leaders to go - Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband will be deciding upon their own fates in the next couple of hours.

Read more here: Cameron heading back to Number 10 after UK General Election 2015  

So... What next for Ed Miliband and Labour?

It's hard to see Miliband staying on as leader of the Labour party - he got less seats than Gordon Brown in 2010.

Although Labour MPs are saying Miliband had a good campaign, the fact is he had a rollercoaster ride and was subjected to all kinds of criticism, much of which was plainly uncomfortable for many of us to observe. Indeed, in recent weeks one noted (and independent) commentator said nobody had been 'monstered' like Miliband has in the last few weeks.

The front pages of the Daily Mail and the Sun on Tuesday - the first imploring people to keep 'Red Ed' out and the latter showing Ed eating a sandwich and urging people to 'Save Our Bacon' - were harsh to say the least but it is not known if the voter took much from this - they have their own minds remember. After all, the Daily Express newspaper got behind UKIP and seems to have made no difference there at all.

We all know how Miliband has been attacked for "stealing" the Labour leadership from under his brother David's nose during the leadership contest. And this is one criticism he has never really been able to address properly.

It's not known whether the brothers are still speaking to each other - but David's absence from his brother's election campaign or lack of public support was telling.

David has been working for a renowned charitable organisation in New York since losing to his brother Ed four years ago.

Many believe David will make a return to politics in the UK but was waiting for the right time - now could be the time.

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