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 19.

    For a start:

    To Cameron & Osborne: the budget and the 80% of cuts still to come are a slap in the face to ordinary people and the final nail in the "we're all in it together" charade. You can not be trusted.

    To Clegg: you lied shamelessly (tuition fee pledge) and have allowed the tories to attack the most vulnerable, reward their rich friends and destroy the NHS. You will not be forgiven.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    if the Government of the day could make itself understood, that would be a good start. This week, in flooded England we were being told we might have to use bath water to flush toilets.What idiotic timing. They need to beat themselves with some twigs and get their act together, focus on the improtant and not the peripheral and be seen to have everyone's interest at heart, including those of OAPs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    As more than two thirds did not vote at all it is hardly a ringing endorsement for Labour. We did not have local elections yesterday and I am not sure I would have voted anyway. The conservatives are unhappy with the lib dems, the lib dems are unhappy with the conservatives and labour voters have short memories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The low turn-out is a real worry, particularly if it translates to a General Election. In that event it would make government yet more powerless against international capital, and render even the sham of parliamentary democracy redundant

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    4. EFW - I'm sure I should know but which of the many condem 'errors' are you referring to ? After a while to be honest I've been switching off - they are so collectively clueless.

    11.EFW - not sure you understand politicians - they are all so self obsessed they would belly crawl over cut glass just to be in charge of the titantic for 1 hour before it sank.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I can't focus on what people are saying, not seriously.

    Not with the squirm inducing smug face that Ed Milliband is displaying.

    Almost unbelievably it is worse than ever...

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I am interested in why the Beeb part of the media think that Lords Reform is unpopular with 'the people' or Coalition supporters or voters when, if my understanding is correct, Opinion Polls say IT IS popular and the Electorate majority want a reformed & elected Upper House.

    It may just be that they want it out of the control of the Parties and elected on a first past the post basis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I'm not at all sure the Tories want to win the next GE: the depression's here for some time yet, and do they want to preside for two terms over that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The people of Edinburgh were saying they prefer a man dressed as a penguin to the LibDem Party.

    Labour still hanging on in Glasgow. Check those postals.

    In places like Solihull & Dudley they were saying we quite like the Greens.
    Small steps. Small steps.

    Nigel Farage is still concussed from that plane crash.

    Otherwise all going pretty much as expected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Where is the balance here Mr R? Two years ago this nation was told by the outgoing Labour "government" ( I use the term loosely) that 'THERE IS NO MONEY LEFT' - the result of the most dysfunctional government in living memory which had also taken the country to war on a complete deception. The only thing certain in May 2012 is that Cameron and Osborne have a lot of catching up to do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The Conservatives didn't 'win' the General Election, which also suffered from voter apathy, but their supporters don't care to mention that point. The truth is that these local elections prove nothing but are useful nonetheless. They can cause the incumbent government to change course, or they can indicate a forthcoming defeat. I await the future with (mild) interest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.


    Good comparisons, mate-but don't forget, Major in 1996 had had 3 shockingly bad years by anyone's standards & Brown in 2008 was already looking out of his depth as PM & not Chancellor.

    Ed done well,Saint, but not climbing the 39 steps yet-as he's sensibly showing in interviews.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    We posters often start babbling amongst ourselves ignoring the Blog subject & content. Am guilty of this. Sorry.

    So to answer your question: Not a lot.

    PS. Are not the big mid-terms next year or the year after, when most of the country vote in local elections?

  • 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.

  • 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 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 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 1.

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


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