Vote 2012: What were the people saying?


The people have spoken. The question now is - what exactly were they saying?

The answer may seem obvious. Voters have punished the coalition. The Conservatives have suffered their first drubbing since taking office. The Liberal Democrats a repeat of the electoral torture they suffered last year. Labour has bounced back from its electoral flattening at the last general election making gains in the places Tony Blair once used to reach.

So far so clear, but what's far from obvious is whether this is merely the sort of mid- term punishment from which both Mr Blair's and Mrs Thatcher's governments recovered easily.

After all, Neil Kinnock's Labour Party did better than Ed Miliband's has done and yet he went on to lose to John Major. William Hague and Michael Howard did just as well before they lost to Tony Blair.

That was in the era of long stretches of one-party rule familiar for the past three decades. These elections could, instead, mark a return to the politics of the 1970s when a government's mid-term blues were followed not by recovery but defeat in a general election.

Only a soothsayer can foretell what will happen in three years' time when the country is due to elect its next government. What we do know, though, is that in the next three days, weeks and months Labour will get its first real chance since losing office to gain a public hearing and the two parties of the coalition will come under immense internal pressure to stress their differences rather than what they agree on.

Next week David Cameron and Nick Clegg will unveil their agenda for the next year in office. Critics who dismiss reform of the House of Lords or legislation for gay marriage as unpopular irrelevances have just been given fresh electoral ammunition.

The next phase in British politics will be defined not by these results but by what party leaders conclude they've been told by the electorate and how they choose to respond.

PS: There is one thing they will all be able to pick out from the polling entrails. People don't much like politics or politicians. Turnout was painfully low - below a third of voters in local elections, below a quarter in some referendums. In those polls voters have been more inclined to say no rather than yes.

When offered a chance to vote for someone other than the UK's big three parties, more and more have chosen to vote Green or UKIP or Respect - though not, interestingly, for the BNP.

Labour Projected National Share

2012 - 38% (still open to revision)

1989 - 42% Kinnock/Labour

2000 - 38% Hague/Conservative

2004 - 38% Howard/Conservative

Further comparisons can be made with the mid-term elections before Labour ended 18 years of Tory rule and the Conservatives ended 10 years of Labour in power:

1995 - 46% Blair/Labour

2008 - 40% Cameron/Conservative

Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

The Europe 'bomb' goes off

Douglas Carswell's defection to UKIP is a body blow for Prime Minister David Cameron, says BBC political editor Nick Robinson.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Nick

Related Stories


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    "The people" were not speaking with an identifiable single voice at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The voters are saying -
    1. I cant be bothered to vote.
    2. If I can be bothered to vote I am fed up with the condems.
    3. I am not prepared to give labour a huge endorsement.
    4. I prefer Boris to Ken (tbc).
    When it comes to gen election will the majority be more scared of the prospect of balls/moribund back in charge of the economy or the condems lurching from one pr disaster to the next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    What has Ed actually done?
    He can't say he has won back voters trust.
    He hasn't made a single policy point since become leader - he has said nothing to vote for other than opportunistic, populist statements, getting on one Milibandwagon after another.
    He is simply reaping the benefit of protest votes in the mid-term of a very difficult period for an incumbent government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.


    "...When it comes to gen election will the majority be...scared of the ...the condems lurching from one pr disaster to the next..."


    I think a Minister Of State, reporting a crime that subverts our democracy to the police, but who fail to act because they've been bought apparently, by the perpetrators, is a bit more than mere "PR".

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Since the abstentionist vote came first then it is pretty clear what the people are saying. Might I suggest a vulgar verb followed by the word `off'.

    I suspect most of those who went and voted did so out of a sense of duty and habit rather than conviction.

    It doesn't matter who you vote for the council always gets in.


Comments 5 of 179


This entry is now closed for comments


  • June plays with a pelicanDad's menagerie

    An extraordinary childhood growing up in a zoo

  • US soldier, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), manning a machine gun onboard a Chinook helicopter over the Gardez district of Paktia province on 11 August 2014Viewpoint

    Nato's role in making the Afghan army sustainable

  • Architect's drawing of bedroomDeep dreams

    The homes where you can live under the sea

  • A snailHard to stomach?

    The IT worker who quit his job to farm snails for restaurants

  • An assortment of secret menu itemsMcSecret

    The fast food items you've never heard of

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.