Tory/Lib Dem Coalition,  UK Politics

UK Election results 2011

The AV Result – The No Campaign wins by a landslide

  • The No campaign has officially won the AV referendum campaign.
  • The No campaign passed the 50% threshold and got more than 9.8m votes.
  • The UK has overwhelmingly rejected changing the voting system from first past the post by a predicted margin of 69% to 31%
  • It is a  crushing defeat for the Yes campaign and a remarkable turn around for the No campaign, which lagged in the early days of campaigning.

The defeat is a huge blow to the Liberal Democrats and to Nick Clegg personally, but it is worth pointing out that AV was never anyone’s first choice for democratic reform (“miserable compromise“). I still do understand, and have not read a decent explanation, of how a poor excuse for voting reform became the “last great hope” for progressive politics. It makes no sense. Why is everyone so wedded to AV? It offers very little real change?

Hopefully this is the right result in rejecting a system that offered little real change and was campaigned for on the basis that our MPs would work harder and would keep the BNP out (who were rightly shown the door today under FPTP).  In the end it appears, as the overwhelming No vote strongly indicates, that it became very difficult to divorce the AV referendum from the desire of voters to punish a toxic Clegg and the Lib Dems.

The response of the Lib Dems, as we blogged earlier, has been to blame everyone but themselves. Chris Huhne blaming the Tories, and creating great cabinet headlines, and Paddy Ashdown blaming Labour. I tweeted last night that Lib Dems are the architects of their own defeat. I think that stands. The Tories have come out of May 5 without too many bruises (I was going to write cuts).

It is worth noting as Daniel Finkelstein at The Times points out: the Tories gained on 2007. That seems something of an achievement. The Tory coalition partners the Lib Dems have not fared anywhere near so well. Why is that? The Lib Dems have a lot of questions to ask themselves, beginning with how did they end up in the mess they are in.

The Lib Dems though are not the only ones with questions. Doing well in England and Wales today is great for Labour, but it is not enough to make up for what happened in Scotland. That is as, the Guardian’s political writers blogged, a disaster for the Labour and its leader.

2125 The Electoral Commission is giving provisional figures for the final turnout of 42%. It is the second lowest figure for a referendum in British history (not much to go on).

2048 The BBC reports that five of the 12 regions have declared results for the AV referendum, but there is not yet a complete certified result, the Electoral Commission says. But seeing as it will be several hours before that is available,

2045 Labour MP for Exeter Ben Bradshaw has tweeted: “Done countless AV meetings in recent months two words sum up reason for scale of defeat: Nick Clegg. Toxic. Specially with Labour voters.”

2030 Ed Miliband has commented by saying he is “disappointed” by the verdict but says he will continue to argue for a “new politics” in the UK. Is New politics like New Labour? Or Blue Labour?

2010 Nick Clegg’s initial reaction to the AV defeat is this: he says it is a “bitter blow” and accepts what he says is a “very clear” result. However, he remains committed to remaining in the coalition.

1930 While counting still continues, more than 9.8m people have voted to keep first-past-the-post, more than 50% of votes cast. The early results from Scotland have been repeated and the No to AV campaign is on course for a 69% share of the of the vote. It is an overwhelming rejecting of AV.

1900 The Guardian’s Wintour & Watt blog posts on the murmuring about Labour’s very disappointing night in Scotland. Yes we did well  in England, but what happened North of the border?

“The murmurings about Miliband have been prompted by what is described as Labour’s “total disaster” in Scotland. Senior Labour figures are aghast at the SNP’s success in achieving something that eluded Labour even when it dominated the landscape in Scotland – winning an overall majority at Holyrood,” write Wintour & Watt.

17:55 Telegraph political correspondent @jameskirkup tweets that Danny Alexander has thrown in the towel on AV: “I accept that we’re going to lose, quite handsomely”.

17:45 There have now been 27 AV results declared: Yes:  30.16% (251,374) No: 69.84% (582,002). The turnout figures for the whole of Britain in the referendum is around 41.8%, according to the Electoral Commission, with 18.6m votes cast.

The 60/40 split tallies with the YouGov exit poll we blogged about earlier giving a clear indication of the final result.

16:55 More from Scotland, Orkney: Yes vote of 39.76% (3,187) and a No vote of 60.42% (4,829); and Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) – #Yes2AV 32.03% (4,117) and No 67.97% (8,735).

16:50 The first result from Isles of Scilly says #NO2AV – 542 – 288 #Yes2AV.

16:25 The Guardian’s Tom Clark tweetsed: “AV London turnout (if really 35.4%) is very high …. shows not everyone bored (even if majority were)”.

16:10 The long count has started. The regional turnout figures have been released. They are better than expected particularly for London where there had been fears.

London: 35.4%; South West: 44.6%, East: 43.1%; West Midlands: 39.8%; Yorkshire and Humberside 39.9%; North West: 39.1%; North East: 38.7%; Scotland: 50.7%.

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6:27 am Many local, and the Alternative Vote referendum (due at 1600 hours), results are still due to come in, but four things are clear so far this morning:

1. The Liberal Democrats have suffered significant losses in councils in the north of England. Party president Tim Farron described it as an “unpleasant” night.

2. The SNP have made significant gains in Scotland, winning 24 seats from other parties, in a real blow for Ed Miliband and Labour.

3. Labour has advanced in Wales and is heading for a majority. Plaid Cymru deputy leader Helen Mary Jones has lost her seat in Llanelli. Ed Miliband has said Labour is “on the way back” in England and Wales (see update below).

4. The Conservatives have not done as bad as their coalition partners. The Lib Dems appear to be broadly taking the pain for the partnership.

The Lib Dems

It has not been a good night for Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems have been replaced by Labour as the largest party in his home city of Sheffield after it won nine seats; the party lost Hull to Labour; and control of Stockport (now no overall control). The Lib Dems also lost 11 seats in Liverpool and another 12 seats in Manchester.

Adding to this haul Labour gained control of Bolton, Lincoln and Hyndburn and took North Warwickshire from the Tories. It was a good night for Labour in the North of England. That much is clear.

The BBC was projecting that Labour will end up with a 37% of the vote, the Conservatives 35% and the Lib Dems 15%. That is nowhere near as low as the 10% polls have been showing, but it is still the party’s worst council performance since it was formed in the late 1980s.

Lib Dem President Farron told the BBC the contests were effectively “the first Lib Dem mid terms for 80 years” adding: “It’s going to be difficult, this will be a very unpleasant night for many Liberal Democrats up and down the country.”

While there was Lib Dem pain this was not necessarily reflected in the vote of their Tory coalition partners. The Conservatives, while suffering losses, gained control of South Gloucester and West Somerset although this did have a minority Tory leadership to start.

It appears that the Lib Dems are taking the pain for the Coalition as the Tory vote holds up. Surely there is a lesson here for the Lib Dems?

Whether it is first past the post or AV there is no place for the BNP. It lost all five seats it contested in Stoke. Very good news to see the racist BNP rejected by voters.

Scotland

As political leaders are known to do, the SNP’s Alex Salmond has been calling the Scottish election night results “historic”. He has some cause to do so. The SNP has won 30 seats. This includes 24 gains from other parties.

These included four Labour seats in Lanarkshire while Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray held on to his East Lothian seat by just 151 votes. That was a pattern repeated elsewhere. Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm held his Edinburgh Northern and Leith seat by a slim majority.

It was not a good night for Labour in Scotland raising many questions for, and about, leader Ed Miliband. While the FPTP element of the Scottish elections are in the list element is yet to be counted.

However, analysts are saying that while the news looks very good for the SNP, heading for a possible majority in Holyrood, it might not mean anything different in terms of independence. Scots are happy to have a Scottish party running Scotland, but still balk at breaking away for the rest of the country. Although what is also true is that the SNP will more than likely bring forth a referendum on independence in the next five years after Labour’s failure north of the border.

UPDATE

By 1255 BST, the SNP had won 55 seats (up 23), Labour 26 (down 10), Conservatives nine (down four), Lib Dems three (down 10) and Greens one.

UPDATE 2 The SNP surges to Holyrood majority

That is historic: The SNP reached 65 seats in the 129-seat Scottish parliament with counts still to declare. The map of Scottish politics on a local level has been reshaped.

The AV result

The final poll on the AV referendum for the Evening Standard still suggested (YES 36%, NO 64) that the change being offered the nation will be rejected by a sizable majority, but the key issue will be turnout. Many yesterday were making dire predictions about the turnout. With Yes supporters seen as the most motivated to vote there were concerns in the No camp about its ability to get the vote out. Even more so in London where there were no local council elections, that the vote was not getting out in high numbers.

There were also reports last night of people not being given referendum ballot papers. The Daily Telegraph claimed that thousands had not been given their referendum ballot slip as the row over who was to blame for the expected loss heated up.

Last night The Gaurdian published comments by the former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown accusing Prime Minister David Cameron of a “breach of faith” for not disassociating himself from what he said were “vicious” attacks by the No to AV campaign on Clegg. He predicted that Cameron’s behaviour would have long-term consequences for the coalition, including the terms on which it eventually ends. Interesting choice of words as if Ashdown sees this break-up not being one where the couple remains on good terms.

“So far the coalition has been lubricated by a large element of goodwill and trust. It is not any longer. The consequence is that when it comes to the bonhomie of the Downing Street rose garden, that has gone. It will never again be glad confident morning,” Ashdown told The Guardian.

On BBC Question Time last night Ashdown, however, turned his anger on Labour. He blamed the Labour party for the possible defeat of voting reform for failing to get behind the Yes campaign.

While happy to attack Cameron, while talking to Guardian reporters, for the cameras he blamed Labour as he dodged audience anger over his party’s support for a right wing Conservative government that is attacking the foundations of the NHS, introducing tuition fees and the government’s rapid deficit reduction (Clegg’s March 2010 Speech at the IPPR on deficit reduction: “We must get the timing right because if we cut public spending too quickly…”). All of which the Lib Dems opposed.

Ashdown seems happy to cast stones in all direction without any soul searching whatsoever. The Lib Dems are the architects of their own destruction. All that is written in the words Clegg said as he battled for votes in the 2010 General election that left many feeling betrayed. That anger was in clear evidence again last night at the local ballot box in the hard pressed North of England, where thousands of public sector jobs are on the line, and on Question Time.

Alan A adds

It is nice to see that the British National Party is having a grim time.

Combined with Galloway’s failure, I couldn’t be happier.

And here is what Respect has to say:

With results in from the May 5th elections, it’s clear that just as in 2010, Respect has been squeezed in a battle between the big parties. In Birmingham Sparkbrook, Mohammed Istiaq lost his council seat to Labour despite gaining an excellent 3,413 votes (38.5%) .

In Glasgow George Galloway’s Coalition against Cuts list received 6,335 votes. This was enough to beat the Liberal Democrats but not enough to win a regional seat. Congratulations to Patrick Harvie of the Green Party who retained his seat.

Elsewhere Respect candidates polled respectable votes but were unable to secure any victories. We’ll post further analysis in due course.

Gordon adds YouGov’s online exit poll on AV referendum – just released: 62% for No, 38% for Yes. No vote up 2% on polling day.

In Chris Huhne’s Eastleigh seat the Lib Dems won against Labour the local Echo reports:  Clean sweep for Lib Dems in Eastleigh. A boost for any possible leadership bid?

UPDATE, Gordon adds: No surprise calls for Nick Clegg to quit are emerging. A number of defeated Lib Dem candidates are calling on him to go. Including one in Kent and Gary Long, the ousted party leader on Nottingham City Council.

The BBC reported Long saying that said he must quit immediately. Ken Ball, party leader on Chorley council, said he had “let the party down”.

However, as the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson fairly points out these calls were inevitable. He also notes that Clegg has backing from other losers:

“What is striking so far is that those councillors who lost in Sheffield and Liverpool and Hull gave their leader and the Coalition their backing. So too did backbench rebels Mike Hancock and Adrian Saunders…and Chris Huhne, who was widely thought to be “on manoeuvres” after his clash over the Cabinet table with David Cameron and George Osborne…and Tim Farron the party’s president and young pretender.”


The Guardian has quoted Ed Miliband saying the party’s performance in the local elections and in Wales showed they were “on the way back” after winning control of 16 more councils with results still coming in.

Labour is up by a 445 so far in terms of council seats and has won 30 of the 60 seats in the Welsh assembly.

However, he admitted lessons would need to be learnt from Scotland where Labour is down by ten to 29.

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