Updated: May 9, 2015 12:13:53 am
In the end, it wasn’t even close. The popular prediction of a hung parliament in Britain, egged on by opinion polls, was decimated at the polling booth, where voters chose stability and have returned a Conservative government, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, to power. The Tories have won a clearer mandate than they had going in — though their former coalition partner, the Liberal Democratic party, has been eviscerated across the island. Labour, with 30 per cent of the vote to the Tories’ 37, capitulated in the face of Scottish nationalism, which has seen the
Scottish National Party win an astonishing 56 out of 59 seats.
The UK Independence Party (Ukip) is the other big loser, winning just one seat, despite emerging as the country’s third largest party in terms of vote share. These results will strengthen calls to overhaul Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system. The contrast is stark:
With only 5 per cent of the national vote, the SNP commands more than 50 seats in Westminster, while the more than 10 per cent who voted for Ukip will see their party limited to single digits.
Armed with a slim but outright majority, the Tories may yet find it more difficult to govern, once the glow of victory wears off. This election was billed as a gamechanger for Britain, one whose outcome might determine the union’s very existence. The result might, indeed, be said to have deepened Britain’s problems. Cameron and his
government will have to continue to manage a fragile economic recovery and navigate uncertain territory with the promised referendum on European Union membership in 2017 and a renewed bid for independence from Scotland. On the economy and Europe, Cameron must battle his party’s newly emboldened — in the absence of the moderating influence of a coalition partner — backbenchers and Eurosceptics, who would see draconian spending cuts to control the deficit and dream of a potentially disastrous “Brexit”.
More urgently, Cameron will also have to try to salvage a union under threat. Another referendum on the Scottish question is all but inevitable, and English nationalist sentiment, especially strong among said backbenchers, has been uncorked in response. Can two parties so diametrically opposed find a way to work together? This will be the biggest test of Cameron’s leadership.
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