1. It took me a couple of minutes to muster a coherent sentence after the initial ‘fuck me’ upon seeing Thursday’s exit poll. It was stunning, and although not fully accurate as an indicator, I knew the jig was up. I did not know however at that point just how much it was up by.
As seat after seat fell to the SNP, including those of Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander, while the Conservatives held off Labour targets and even scored some scalps, I went to bed at 4.00 pretty certain that my prediction of a second Tory-Lib Dem coalition repeating itself. Upon waking both the most of opinion polls and myself were proved wrong, and it was clear Cameron would secure a majority. There was a bleak mood at school inevitably, though one or two disparaging comments from staff about a ‘selfish’ electorate that I found patronising and disagreeable, despite my slight Labour leanings. Ed screwed up; this was on him and a poor campaign.
2. I don’t like Ed Balls. A bruiser, plotter and smearer of opponents. He has nevertheless been one of the members of the more impressive members of the Labour front bench, nobly tying to win back business support dissipating due to Miliband’s experiment. There are many people at the top of Labour who are to blame for this wasted five years (Ed Miliband and his dutiful but useless lieutenant Lucy Powell amongst others), but I don’t think that Ed Balls is one of them.
3. The Scottish Nationalist surge cannot be understood rationally. What happened in Scotland was astounding and has the potential to break up the union as we know it. It was a wave made up of sentiment, passion and grievance that I don’t think a Labour of any political colour or leader could have stopped. It is a genuine phenomenon, with the afore mentioned Alexander and Murphy, articulate men with significant contributions to both UK governance and the Scottish ‘No’ vote, carried on this tide. Ed Miliband can be blamed for a poor showing in England, but I feel Scotland was out of his hands.
4. The Liberal Democrats were always going to get a beating, but this was undeservedly bad. I have had my share of misgivings about some of their decisions in government, but Labour were rejected last time, with the numbers not allowing for a majority even with a Clegg coalition. They remain a centrist party, have been preferable to a Conservative party left to its own devices, and I think Clegg one day will be treated more kindly. They spoke of cuts and a smaller state in 2009, the idiots carried over to them by a television debate, as well as focusing on anti tuition fees and Iraq grievances. They should have focused on liberalism and its views on the economy and State.
It was a strange set of events with the Lib Dems on Thursday and Friday. Liberal lefty after Liberal lefty, including Simon Hughes and Charles Kennedy, critical of government policy, were booted out. Yet Clegg, the hated enabler, the Orange Book Liberal on the economic right survived. Strange things elections. That’s why this politico had less than three hours sleep between Thursday morning and Friday night.
5. I agree with Tristram Hunt, when interviewed on Friday, who said that Labour rushed into a leadership election in 2010, and a longer period of reflection is needed. I am in agreement with this. In Harriet Harman, a divisive figure, the party nevertheless has an experienced and competent commons performer. There is no need to rush headlong into a leadership campaign, especially after something of a mauling on Friday.
A debate is needed on what went well and what went wrong in these past five years, what the party needs to do to appeal to the centre ground and floating voters. I hope also this period of reflection is used to perfect and clarify the voting changes initiated by Ed Miliband. We cannot again have a leadership election in which trade union members are automatically assumed to be Labour voters, nor where the big unions control the flow of information to their members in such a way that their preferred candidate is the only person their members receive information on.