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 Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Give it a few weeks and everybody will have forgotten about labour's "great victory". Does anybody really believe that Ed Milliband could lead this country? The present lot may not be great but what's the alternative.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    What the people will soon be saying is that they are sick and tired of BBC Political Editor's obsession with the Twitter company.

    The same criticism applies to all MPs in the House of Commons - twittering on their tax-payer funded smart 'phones plus bills - instead of LISTENING AND DOING THEIR JOB!

    I'm sorry, was I shouting? I must try harder not to replicate the behaviour of the House at PMQs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Disenfranchisement rules and those that did vote were wasting their time.

    The voting system is only there to give a glimpse of legitimacy to the rip off system that pervades the whole of British society.

    Even when it looks like some body in authority is going to get a bloody nose.. What happens?

    A fix gets put in. Why else has Leveson granted ministers "core participant" status at his inquiry?

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Personally, I think what we're saying, is "why bother, this never makes a difference?" Contempt, descending into apathy for the whole political process and those involved is the message I am getting from those I know.
    If Cameron, Clegg and the other ministers genuinly cared about what is good for the country, they would take a half pay cut. That way, disabled people wouldn't have to starve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    "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."

    Really? Only about 1/3rd of voters bothered to vote so i'd say that's a pretty poor conclusion.

    It's what the 2/3rds that didn't care enough to vote you should be questioning.


Comments 5 of 179



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