The gloater, with not much to gloat about

The unedifying sight of a gloating Prime Minister will surprise those able to take a step back and have a dispassionate look at what happened on May 7th.

Let me get one thing out of the way first, it was a night of horrors for Labour. Despite a smattering of successes, we have a problem. That problem is less, in my view, about what happened in April and early May once the starter gun had been fired on the General Election, than about the four-year failure that led to a night of disappointment. It went horribly wrong during the summer of 2010, and never recovered.

Perhaps we were naive in thinking that we could be in charge when the biggest recession since the 1920s hit us and could bounce back within five years. We were certainly seemingly unprepared for the sight of wavering Tories returning to the fold when faced with a ballot paper. It was all lost, though, when we failed to defend our record in Government, and allowed a narrative of recklessness to take hold in the collective voter consciousness.

However, Mr Cameron needs to remind himself that he sits in number ten with the smallest majority since 1974. He also needs reminding, so it would seem, that his dozen-seat buffer came with a mere 36.9% of the popular vote. Whilst Labour lost big-time in Scotland, this was the Tories fate too; his is a Government of the English by the English.

The Conservative success was as much about the fragmenting of the opposition as anything. Labour actually increased its votes share overall, and made fair progress in England – a almost Scottish wipe-out exaggerated just how far behind we fell. Nonetheless, it looks the fracturing on the right largely evaporated, whereas on the centre-left the voters enjoyed the range of options on offer.

Cameron will be content with his party’s performance in the midlands and the south; although London remains stubbornly largely red. The north, Wales and Scotland sees isolated pockets of blue. Of course, the reverse is true of Labour, and in my region (East) for instance, our problem is worse than the Tory northern problem. Nonetheless, as victors the Conservatives must expect to be more representative of the UK as a whole.

The Conservatives are rightly pleased with their successes, but this success should not be allowed to hide their problems. Faced with an Opposition plumbing new depths in General Election failure, a hung Parliament followed by a small majority seems less like the sort of thing to gloat about, then one to worry about. Labour has a problem, but so do the Tories.

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