British Elections 2005

Iron-lady Margaret Thatcher led Conservative Party to three straight victories in 1979, 1983 and 1987, recording a maximum majority of 143 seats in 1983 with 42.4% votes (and 397 seats) in an electoral turnout of 72.7%, the Labour Party polling 27.6% for 209 seats. Despite Labour presently leading Conservatives on the average 39% over 35% in most polls, of concern to Labour is possible voter apathy among its hard-core supporters. Among the people “likely to vote”, the gap narrows dramatically to 34% Labour to 32% Conservative and 24% Liberal Democrats. The Conservative Party voter being more likely to vote, Blair-ites are concerned a high voter turnout favouring the Tories, particularly in the marginal seats, a 100 of which are being targetted by Labour’s opponents.

Manifestos give a stark contrast of the three major parties, viz (1) Tax and the Economy (b) Labour has no increases in income tax and no extension of VAT, targetted cuts for families and £ 21 billion saving through reducing 80000 civil service jobs (b) Conservative, cut £33 billion by eliminating waste and jobs, reduce government borrowing by £8 billion, leaving £4 billion for tax cuts yet to be identified, (c) Liberal Democrats, abolish Council Tax and replace it with local income tax, introducing a new 50p top rate for incomes over £100000, money raised for spending on priority areas scrapping, child trust funds (2) Health (a) Labour, patients would choose any hospital at NHS prices, cutting down waiting time to maximum 18 weeks and expanding private sector within NHS. Consult on new Hygiene laws (b) Conservatives, a choice of hospital 50% of cost of operations paid if private, matrons would have power to close dirty wards (c) Liberal Democrats, free long-term personal care for elderly with free eye and dental checks, fewer NHS prescription charges while reducing hidden costs for diagnostic tests (3) Education (a) Labour, more city academics making all secondary schools independent specialist schools and successful schools taking over failing ones. Maintenance allowance for poorer students to stay in education after the age of 16 (b) Conservatives, Heads of Schools and Governors given more powers to expel unruly students, 600000 more school places to be provided. University fees to be scrapped, interest charged on student loans (c) Liberal Democrats, abolish University Tuition Fees and maintenance grants for poorer students, 21000 more primary teachers (4) Crime (1) Labour, have neighborhood policing teams with 24000 extra community officers and 12000 police officers freed for frontline duties. Prisoners to be supervised on release, legislation to introduce ID cards (2) Conservative, slash paperwork and recruit 5000 more police officers every year, 20000 more person places created. Early prison releases to be scrapped and 10-fold increase in rehabilitation charges (c) Liberal Democrats, 10000 more police officers and 20000 more extra community officers on the streets, scrapping plans for ID Cards, allow non-violent prisoners to do community work as an alternative to jail (5) Asylum and Immigration (1) Labour, a points system for immigration, allowing only skilled workers and fingerprinting all entrants, ID Cards for visitors staying more than 3 months, deporting all failed asylum seekers (2) Conservatives, withdraw from the Geneva Convention on refugees and its annual quota on refugees, create a new border force and set up a points system for immigrants, Parliament providing on annual cap on numbers and (3) Liberal Democrats, asylum seekers working to avoid dependence on benefits, transfering responsibility for assessing asylum seekers to an dedicated agency.

With respect to Elections 2001, of the 659 seats in Parliament (there are only 646 seats in 2005) divided by Regions, viz (1) Yorkshire with 56 seats in 2001 gave Labour 45 seats with 48.6% of the votes, Conservative 7 seats (30.2%) and Liberal 2 seats (2) West Midlands with 59 seats, Labour 44 seats (44.8%), Conservative 13 (35%) and Liberals 2 (3) East Midlands with 44 seats, Labour 28 seats (45.1%), Conservative 16 (37.3%) (4) South Region with 22 seats, Conservative 14 seats (44.7%) Labour 7 (35.8%) and Liberals 1 seat (5) South West Region with 51 seats, Conservatives 19 (38.5%), Labour 17 (31.2%) and Liberal 15 (26.3%) (6) South East Region with 117 seats, Conservatives 72 seats (42.6%), Labour 36 (31.7%) and Liberals 9 seats (7) North West Region with 70 seats, Labour 60 seats (51.8%), Conservatives 7 (23.8%) and Liberals 3 (8) North Region has 36 seats, Labour 32 seats (53.7%), Conservatives 3 (24.6%) and Liberals 1, (9) London Region 74 seats, Labour 55 seats (47.3%), Conservative 12 (30.5%) and Liberals 7 (10) Scotland with 59 seats, Labour 46 seats (43.9%), Scotland Nationalist Party (SNP) got 4 (20.1%), Liberals 9 (16.4%) (11) Wales with 40 seats, Labour 34 seats (48.6%), Conservative got no seats (21%) Plaid Cymru 4 seats (14.3%), Liberals 2 seats (16.1%) (12) Northern Ireland with 18 seats, Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) got 6 seats (26.8%), Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 5 seats (22.5%) Sinn Fein 4 seats (21.7%) and Social Democratic Party 3 seats (21%). Labour’s total came to 413 seats, Conservatives 166 and Liberal Democrats 52, 28 seats went to smaller regional parties.

Britain’s electoral geography is tilted heavily in favour of Labour. their constituencies having on the average 6000 less votes than safe Tory constituencies. Voters from safe Labour strongholds in the urban areas tend to move to Tory strongholds in the counties, converting voter percentage to Labour’s advantage. The same number of votes for the two Parties would still give Tony Blair a majority of 40-50 seats. Average turnout in safe Labour constituencies was 57% in 2001 while in Tory strongholds it was 63%. Both Scotland and Wales are Labour fiefdoms with fewer electors (55000 and 57000 respectively) per constituency than in England (70000 per constituency). Even losing the popular vote, Labour would have more seats in Parliament. According to the average polls, with an electoral lead of 4%, Labour’s present majority would come down to about 80 seats. The “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) system is unfair, even if the non-labour voters outnumber the Labor voters 2:1, Labour would end up with more than 50% of the seats in Parliament. The major faultline in FPTP could be seen in the plight of Liberal Democrats in 1983, getting only 23 seats with 25.4% of the vote, only 2.2% behind Labour who got 209 seats, almost 10 times more. A “run-off election” or one with “proportional representation”, would get the Liberals about 125 seats, making Parliament more representative of the electorate. In contrast to the Party’s poll figures (a distant third), Liberal Democratic Party Leader Charles Kennedy has run an election campaign that matches Blair’s in the performance index, despite fiery rhetoric Tory Michael Howard is a distant third.

Blair avoided the potentially damaging succession issue amicably, Gordon Brown is a major Labour asset, the economy is looking extremely good because of his superb performance. At the end of the day the voter’s pocketbook influences his preference. It seems Blair has given cast-iron guarantees that in the later part of his third term as PM, he would hand over the reins to Brown, both have campaigned quite strongly side by side. If the majority is cut to less than 50, Blair will be under pressure to hand over power earlier than later. A smaller majority will be an invitation for repeated rebellion by Labour backbenchers critical of Blair’s leadership. The questions about Iraq and his credibility thereof notwithstanding, the British public continues to favour Blair as Prime Minister by a margin of 36.3% over 31% for Michael Howard, more or less approximating following party percentages, Liberal Democratic Party leader Charles Kennedy trails at 16% (as compared to his Party’s performance at about 23%). The Labour Party is set for its third straight victory under Tony Blair today. By the time the polls close at 10 pm UK time at 45000 polling stations, the only statistical question will be the (reduced) margin of victory.