Conservatives 36.9% up 0.8%
Labour 30.4% up 1.5%
UKIP 12.6% up 9.5%
Lib Dems 7.9% down 15.2%
SNP 4.7% up 3.1%
Greens 3.8% up 2.8%
Unless I am badly mistaking the result was not a resounding success for the Conservatives - they basically held steady. Nor was it a resounding defeat in terms of votes for Labour. Given what happened in Scotland it is astonishing that their share actually increased. The big winners of any changes in hearts and minds were UKIP. I don't like that fact but that is what the figures say. And the big losers were the Lib Dems.
The level of arrogance with which the Conservatives have acted since the election is clearly not justified by the narrow margin of their support. You can't simply add the UKIP vote to the Conservative vote and conclude the country has moved to the right because I spoke to a lot of UKIP voters in the north and discovered that quite a number of them were supporting UKIP in the hope that they were a radical alternative that would support the working class. Clearly I think that was a huge mistake but equally clearly it is not solid support for dismantling the welfare state.
What happened in the election is that the Liberal Democrats lost very badly. The Conservative majority comes from winning 24 extra seats. The switch from Labour seats to Conservative and vice versa was almost exactly neutral. The government's majority came from taking seats from their moderate coalition partners the Lib Dems.
So what was the main message that the Lib Dems were offering that the electors rejected so roundly? Put simply it was that austerity was necessary but we could perhaps do it a little bit more nicely. They offered austerity light. The electorate didn't like it one bit. Nor did they like a party that was led by someone who had lied to them by promising cuts in tuition fees and then raising them.
Three parties that spoke out strongly and clearly against austerity all did well. The SNP cleaned up. The Green's got a million votes and Plaid Cymru increased their vote.
The conclusions I draw from this are as follows:
1. The Conservatives went into the election with a clear and simple message that held their ground but didn't seem to convince anyone new. They were, I think wrongly, trusted on the economy by their existing supporters but voters were really nervy over what they would do in power. Their voters went for "we've fixed the economy" but this message didn't gain many votes because the majority of the electorate were just as strongly worried that what their next move would be to implement their dream of "we are going to dismantle the welfare state". Voters didn't want the nasty party.
2. If you think we need austerity then you might as well vote for it. The collapse of Lib Dem votes comes from the complete pointlessness of voting for "I think we need cuts but can we please make them a bit nicer?" If you believe you are going to have to face pain then you want to get it over quickly and you don't vote for the softer medicine.
3. Voters liked clarity. They don't trust machine politicians any more. This doesn't seem to depend on whether the politician is right or left but on whether a politician comes across as honestly believing what they say. Clegg was punished hugely for his lie over tuition fees. Farage got the respect of a lot of people but so did Nicola Sturgeon. Often it was the same people admiring both. There is a search for honesty and sincerity going on amongst the electorate.
It has therefore been fascinating to watch the vast majority of Labour Party leaders failing to understand what is happening. Harman appears to think that the solution to Labour's slight increase in vote is to adopt the strategy of the one party that lost really heavily. Tell people you'll give them austerity but not quite as nastily. The failed Lib Dem strategy is also favoured by 3 out of 4 leadership contenders. Instead of launching a huge attack on Osborne's lurch to the right in the most regressive budget for years Harman's message was staggering in its bumbling incompetence. She seemed to be saying "you have a good point that the poor are feckless but can't we deal with the problem more slowly please?". The message that would have worked is "you told us your budget was for the working class so why have you made 3 million of the poorest working people £1,000 worse off?"
By comparison Nicola Sturgeon gets it. When your opponents launch an attack you can either retreat or fight back. Cameron tried to reward some of his supporters by organising a change in the foxhunting law by a quick and shabby amendment. She made a fool of him by firm intelligent resistance and won much public support. Caroline Lucas is turning in a similarly fantastic display. What we need in the face of a government drunk on electoral triumph is to take them on every time they over extend themselves. They have made the huge mistake of thinking the country positively voted for them and wants more and sharper cuts. The public doesn't. It wants the economy to be fixed and for all this pain to be over. It could become very cross indeed if it discovers that the long term economic plan is to inflict a lot more pain with the sole aim of destroying the welfare state. All that is needed to generate this anger is for the alternative to be clearly and continually articulated with force and honesty.
Austerity has been an ideological choice. All it brings is a lot of pain and suffering. That pain needs fighting every step of the way. Not an offer that we will inflict it but a little more reasonably.
By the way. I got my reliable unbiased data from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results
That's the same BBC website that the government wants to be restricted so that Murdoch can control more of your information.