The results for all 650 constituencies in, time to make some brief observations.
(1) Almost everyone was wrong (including myself). It is 1992 all over again, with opinion polls massively understating Conservative support.
(2) Regionally, the story was essentially one of Conservative and SNP triumph in England and Scotland, respectively. Miliband (Labour), Clegg (LibDem), and Farage (UKIP) all resigned within the hour. The Tories can now govern for the next 5 years without having to accomodate any coalition partner. Cameron must be a very happy man today.
(3) Once again the inadequacies of the FPTP electoral model were on full display, with UKIP getting 3.9 million votes and one seat (!) while the SNP got 1.5 million votes and 56 seats. That is because the latter got pluralities in almost all Scottish regions, while UKIP was perenially scoring second place to the Conservatives in England.
(4) Our good friend Matthew Atkins, interviewed here, got 10% in his constituency of Lancaster and Fleetwood, which is a respectable result for a region where Labour is strong. If UKIP hadn’t been scoring 10%-15% across most of England – primarily to the loss of the Conservatives – then even more of England would have been blue, including Lancaster and Fleetwood.
(5) Bearing the above point in mind, the vision of the country by national lines becomes even starker than what would be implied by this map (Blue = Conservatives; Red = Labour; Yellow = SNP; Orange = Liberal Demorats; Green = various Welsh and Irish nationalists):
EDIT: As whyvert points out in the comments, the 2015 map here seems to be based on forecasts, as opposed to the actual elections results. Here is the real map. Nothing changes cardinally, just the English/Scottish border is no longer delineated quite as neatly, and the Conservative victory in England becomes all the more absolute.
This is what we have now:
- A very convincing Conservative win in England, where it has repositioned itself successfully as the party that looks after English interests.
- A spectacular SNP sweep in the north.
- Which is to the detriment of Labour, the party that has been historically strong throughout the Kingdom: In Scotland, the industrial northwest, immigrant communities, and the socialist parts of London.
With nationally-orientated parties in the ascendant throughout the country, questions must be asked as to how long the UK will be able to hold together, the failure of Scotland’s independence referendum last year regardless. The economy is in a stable long-term stagnation (real GDP per capita has even now yet to recover to its peak level of 2007), while big deficit spending continues. There will likely now be a further wave of austerity, which will not please leftist Scots. Cameron has also promised a referendum on EU membership for 2017, should the Conservatives win an outright majority in the current elections, which they have. Polls indicate this refenredum will probably fail, but as we have seen, polls can be deceptive. If that vote wins, it may well provoke another Scottish crisis, since Scots are very EU-friendly, and for many of them it would be just another case of the English deciding their fates.
This is not to say that I think the UK will break up sometime this decade. To the contrary, a whole chain of things still has go wrong (or right, depending on your outlook) for that to happen. No, my argument is far more minimal. It is that the political challenges the UK faces to its continued existence have not vanished after the failure of the Scottish independence referendum.