8 May 2015

Election 2015: restive UK holds on tight for unintended consequences

Angela Merkel likes David Cameron. She has given him and his family the exclusive potato breakfast fry up (pickled herrings optional) at her weekend retreat. Not for the faint hearted, that is an honour reserved for only a few.


She used it to talk to him eyeball to eyeball about his real commitment to Europe. She will respect that he has renewed his mandate with a boosted vote. She will find an echo in the annihilation for the Lib Dems which echoes the crushing of the small German Free Democrats two years ago after having been the junior coalition partner for decades.

But she will also worry. A referendum on Europe now seems more than less likely, unless a vote on a referendum is defeated in the Commons with the help of europhile Tories like Ken Clarke. And once again a Tory leader will be beholden to the querulous restive right wing of his party.

This is precisely the reason why Frau Merkel prefers to be in a coalition than battling the demons in her own ranks. The spectre of John Major, good and bad, hovers all over this result. It will be interesting to see whether Cameron uses his mandate to be more bold about his vision for this country. And it would be good if he could share with us what that vision actually is.

Last night’s result was a triumph for continuity with a small c. The fear factor worked. Go to bed with Nigel and you wake up in a love triangle with Ed and Nicola was a prospect that cowed voters into the foetal position of continuity. In the end the recovery worked just about well enough for enough people to make the gamble of a Miliband government seem unnecessary.

The case for change had not been made. The triumphant campaign of Nicola Sturgeon did more than anything to wake up dormant English voters and head for the trenches of continuity. Much the same happened in Scotland during the referendum.

But the rise of the SNP after its defeat last September is the cautionary tale of this election year. In its current restive state this island nation is ripe for unintended consequences. Hold on tight.

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