The British political landscape was radically transformed overnight as the Conservative Party secured its first parliamentary majority since 1992 and the Scottish National Party painted Scotland yellow, capturing nearly all Scottish seats in the much-anticipated ‘Ajockalypse’ result. The overall victory is one of the Conservative Party’s best ever results, defying all poll predictions and leaving the Liberal Democrats and Labour traumatised, shell-shocked and leaderless. By lunchtime, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage had all resigned as leaders.
In achieving a parliamentary majority, David Cameron becomes only the second Prime Minister to have increased a party’s number of seats while in power. He now has the luxury of commanding a majority in the House of Commons, beyond the Conservatives’ most optimistic of predictions.
Despite his historic success, David Cameron faces a gruelling task in leading an effective government over the coming five years: the future of the UK, the promised ‘in-out EU’ referendum and renewed calls for electoral reform will never be far from the agenda, all the while facing a lively SNP in the House and needing to keep his small majority of backbenchers onside. Also, with an outright majority, there will be an expectation that the Conservatives will deliver its manifesto, complete with its renewed pledges to eliminate the deficit, take more low earners out of tax and, controversially, extend ‘Right to Buy’ to 1.3 million housing association homes. We can expect the Conservative Party to govern with much more confidence this time around, delivering its clear agenda and setting the UK on a defined path for the future.
One such path relates to property and development. The Conservatives’ commitment to delivering new homes for first-time buyers was a theme of the previous Conservative-led coalition government and we can expect them to continue with targets such as 200,000 discount market homes for first-time buyers. The party’s emphasis on brownfield development and Green Belt protection is also likely to continue. On the housing side, many investors and owners of residences worth over £2 million and estate agents will have breathed a sigh of relief at the result and early impressions are that the result is expected to buoy the market. More controversially, the Conservatives’ extension of ‘Right to Buy’ had been labelled by critics as being the ‘wrong solution to the housing crisis’ and the new government will now be tested on its ability to deliver it.
There are few scraps of comfort for the Liberal Democrats and Labour. Labour’s result has left the party all but locked out of Scotland and without several big names in place (Ed Miliband, resigned; and Ed Balls, defeated), leading to a potentially bloody leadership battle in coming weeks. Remaining Labour MPs, Andy Burnham, Chuka Umunna and Yvette Cooper have already been mooted as future candidates. The Liberal Democrats arguably fared even worse, losing dozens of seats and enduring heavy losses in Scottish and South West heartlands – most notably, the likes of Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, David Laws and Charles Kennedy were all defeated. Meanwhile, UKIP will rightly cite its polling results as a credible step forward across the country, but the failure to gain more MPs and of Nigel Farage to win in South Thanet will undoubtedly be very disappointing.
The 2015 general election will rightly be remembered as a watershed moment for British politics, marking a dramatic shift from coalition back to single-party majority government, the ruthless ending of numerous high-flying political careers and the creation of clear geographical political divisions between England and Scotland. Regardless, out of the carnage of last night, a clear victor emerged and David Cameron’s reforming Conservative Party now has a majority and a clear mandate to govern. Good or bad – we can be sure it will be an interesting five years.
Will Scawn is an account director at Camargue