Azara Blog: UK general election results are in

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Date published: 2005/05/06

The BBC says:

Tony Blair has won a historic third term in government for Labour but with a drastically reduced majority.

Mr Blair pledged to respond "sensibly and wisely" to the result, which the BBC predicts will see his majority cut from 167 in 2001 to 66.

The Conservatives have mounted a strong challenge but their overall share of the vote will be similar to 2001.

The Lib Dems have made big inroads into Labour majorities and look set to end up with an estimated 60 seats.

The current tally is Labour 355, Tories 197, Lib Dems 62 and others (mainly the regional parties) 30. There are two more seats: Staffordshire South, which will have a bye-election because the Lib Dem candidate (who would not have won) died shortly before the election; and Harlow, which is still due a recount. The Tories will probably win Staffordshire South and Labour or the Tories Harlow.

In some sense all the three main parties were winners and losers. And the outcome was fairly ideal, a Labour victory with a much reduced majority. The LibDems are crowing the most, but most of their 4% gain from the 2001 election was because of the Iraq war, and they are deluding themselves if they think otherwise. In 2009 they will most likely be back to square one. Charles Kennedy appears to be a nice enough chap but he is obviously not bright enough to be running the country (this is not the US).

For once the opinion polls and exit polls were fairly accurate. Perhaps this is because the polls were so stable for the whole campaign, perhaps this is because people who vote Tory are now willing to admit as such (unlike back in the dark days of Thatcherism), or perhaps this is because the pollsters now know how to fiddle their surveys to give a more accurate result.

In Cambridge there was a 15% swing to the Lib Dems from Labour and so the final result was not that close and Anne Campbell indeed lost her job to David Howarth because of Tony Blair. As well as being the highwater mark for the Lib Dems in the country, this is near the highwater mark for the Lib Dems in Cambridge. And not too soon. The final Cambridge count was:

partycountpercentage
LibDem1915244.0%
Labour1481334.0%
Conservative719316.5%
Green12452.9%
UKIP5691.3%
Respect4771.1%
Independent 1600.1%
Independent 2600.1%

One of the bizarre things about British elections is that the pundits obsess about votes, rather than about percentages. So they will say that the LibDems have a majority of 4339, but of course that is meaningless if you don't know what the total count was (43569) and in some sense you also need to know what the other parties got (over 1 vote in 5).

So David Howarth will now have to represent Cambridge, and it will be interesting to see how much he puts his own and his party's interest above the interests of the city. Perhaps the most important issue for the city (going forward) is student fees, introduced by Labour. These are bad for students but good for the university (at least according to the people who run the university, many of the staff believe otherwise). Howarth himself works for the university (for the Department of Land Economy, a joke department) so has a personal interest. The Lib Dems have always opposed student fees.

Another issue for the city is Marshall's Airport. Howarth has been one of those clamouring for it to be shut down, and the Lib Dems are hostile to the air transport industry. Anne Campbell (in some sense) supported Marshall's, but it's hard to see Howarth doing the same. If the IT and biotech industries don't flourish then Cambridge will go back to being a provincial university town, largely thanks to the dreadfully provincial Lib Dems who now run the town.

East Anglia is becoming a Labour free zone. So don't expect any favours to the region from the government. The only reason we have any influence is because of the university.

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