• The reason fo rthe failure of the pollsters to come anywhere near to the election result   is simple: they tend to rely on telephone and online polls.  Both routinely result in samples which are not representative of the population. Telephone polls are undermined by the large number of people who are unwilling to answer questions and the time of day when calls are made, for example, if you ring during the day you are likely to get a different sample than if you ring in the evening.  Online polls rely on (1) people being online and moderately IT savvy – which excludes many people – and (2) what are in effect focus groups formed of people who put themselves forward (which will mean they are unrepresentative   of the general population regardless of the attempt to choose them in the context of their backgrounds) who are questioned regularly (which precludes even the basic shuffling of the sample pack created every time an entirely new sample is questioned.)
  • The exit poll came much closer to the  actual result because (1) it was a very large sample (20,000), (2) people were interviewed face to face and (3) the people interviewed had actually voted.  The pollsters need to go back to face to face interviewing and more rigorous selection of polling samples.
  • The Conservative Party has a formal  Commons majority of 12. Sinn Fein has four seats and if they follow their normal practice of not taking up those seats the majority would effectively be 16.  Add in the Speaker of the House who does not vote except when a vote is tied, and the majority is effectively 17 (The Commons has 650 MPs. Deduct the Sinn Fein MPs and the Speaker and a practical majority is 323. The Tories have 331 seats. That leaves 314 opposition MPs.  The practical majority is 17).   Such a majority is just about a working one.
  • Even a twelve seat majority is functional because though it may look fragile, in practice all opposition MPs will not vote against the government on many issues. This can be for  ideological reasons (they broadly  agree with the legislation), they think voting against a Bill would play badly with the public or the simple fact that the Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and many opposition English seat MPs have constituencies which are hundreds of miles away from London.  Tory seats tend to be much nearer London than opposition ones. Moreover, if the government wants to play difficult, they can always refuse to allow pairing of MPs (MPs of different parties agree not to vote, thus cancelling one another’s votes out).  That would put a burden on their own MPs,  but much less of a one than that placed on opposition MPs, because, as  already explained,  Tory   MPs  on average have much less distance to travel to and from their constituencies than do opposition MPs.
  • The size of the Conservative majority will give their backbenchers far more leverage on the government. This will be healthy because it will re-assert the power of the Commons over the executive.
  • In the first couple of years much of the major legislation going through will command widespread support amongst   Conservative MPs. However, if the Cabinet starts backtracking on their manifesto promises  the Tory backbenchers will want to know the reason why  and will rebel if pushed too hard in a direction they do not wish to go. (Cameron was rash enough at the first Cabinet meeting of the new government to promise that the Tory manifesto would be implemented in full – go in at 11.32 am).
  • Because of the small majority, the Conservative government should push through as soon as possible all their most important legislation.  This includes the EU referendum, English votes for English laws, the delayed boundary changes and the repeal of the Human Rights Act.  The House of Lords can delay passing a Commons Bill for about a year. After that the government can force it through using the Parliament Act.
  • The government would be well advised to repeal theFixed term Parliaments  Act, not least because the small majority is likely to diminish before the end of the Parliament and even if it does not it will be very difficult for the government  party to maintain its discipline for five years. The danger is a repeat of the last years of the Major government which saw constant Tory infighting and precious little being done in the last eighteen months or so.
  • The election told us that both the Tories and Labour are parties devoid of principle. Thatcher hollowed out the Tory Party converting it from a party which stood broadly for the national interest, strong on defense, protectionist where strategic industries such as coal were concerned, with its natural paternalism of the past sublimated into an acceptance of the welfare state.  Blair cut out the central moral purpose of the Labour Party (to protect the poor and unfortunate) and replaced it with a toxic hybrid of Thatcherism with its the mania for privatisation both wholesale and piecemeal and greatly increased state spending, much of which was spent to no good purpose and whose justification seemed to be no more than the spending of the money for its own sake to show how “caring” NuLabour were.

 

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