When there’s something puzzling or suspicious or unnatural about a death, there’s an autopsy. Sometimes it’s obvious what happened, sometimes it takes time and tests to discover the truth; just very occasionally it’s not possible to determine with certainty the sequence of events.
Before 10 pm on Thursday night, we were all wrong; and immediately afterwards, only John Curtice was right. He was so very right that Paddy Ashdown said he’d eat his hat, and Alastair Campbell said he’d eat his kilt. The two were then presented with these sartorial accessories on Question Time. Meanwhile, the rest of us, people, politicians—including David Cameron—and writers of blogs (mea maxima culpa!) wondered what had happened. And with three party leaders falling on their swords, there was a lot of blood on the floor, even if one of them hoped to make another comeback.
There are some preliminary findings from the autopsy; these are being digested, the organs and tharmes are being examined, and the remains will be fed into Mystic Meg’s Crystal Ball, so that ‘lessons can be learned’. The forensic examiner has more questions than answers at present. Here’s a few:
- How did the opinion pollsters get it so comprehensively wrong? Why wasn’t there a hung parliament? Can we ever believe the pollsters again?
- The SNP, the DUP and the LibDems might well have hoped to exploit a hung parliament; will the Tories pay any attention to them now? What political leverage do these, and the other parties, now have?
- Why didn’t the metropolitan elite notice what was happening in Scotland, even if the pollsters did?
- Why were the LibDems so punished for their time in government? Was it the broken pledge on student fees? If so, why weren’t the Tories punished for saying there would be no rise in VAT (which was raised) and no top-down reorganisation of the NHS in England, which there was? Was it because Clegg apologised, breaking the ‘never explain, never complain, never apologise’ rule of public life? Or do the public simply expect the Tories to be ‘lying bastards’?
- Was Red Ed too red for England but not red enough for Scotland?
- Will the future really look on the LibDems kindly? Will we see that they actually did put some ‘heart’ into the Tories? What about the ‘seven laws’ that didn’t get passed?
- Do the Tories have any hidden policies, like privatising the NHS as has already been mooted in the Torygraph, which are already prepared and waiting to be served up? Does anyone know where all the ‘welfare’ benefits cuts will come from?
- Are we really entering a period of stable government? John Major had a 30-seat majority in 1992, and a fat lot of good it did him. His backbenchers, the ‘bastards’ made his life a misery, specially over Europe. Is this also to be Cameron’s fate? How many Tory dinosaurs are there? And where will the other parties be?
- There will be a EU referendum before the end of 2017, and probably earlier. England might well vote to leave, Scotland seems certain to vote to remain in. If this happens, will there be another Scottish referendum? And will David Cameron find himself as the last prime minister of the UK, and Nicola Sturgeon the first prime minister of a newly independent Scotland? And where will N Ireland be in all this? Still part of the rump of the UK, busily erecting border posts and customs stations? (As an aside, I’ve only recently noticed something that’s been staring us all in the face for yonks; look carefully at the Union Flag. The English cross of St George is clearly in front of, on top of, the saltires of Saints Andrew and Patrick. Is this a subliminal message, showing where power really lies?)
- Did Rupert Murdoch really win it for England and for Scotland? Or was it Lynton Crosby, the ‘wizard of Oz’?
- Both UKIP and the Greens had a sizeable popular vote that wasn’t turned into seats, each party winning only one. If first past the post is fine when there are only two parties, should the UK, now that we seem to be in multi-party politics, move to a proper system of PR, such as STV?
- Voter registration was changed in the last few years; in the past everybody in a household could be entered on one form. Now each individual must register. Although this can be done online in Britain, it’s not possible yet in N Ireland. Why do so few young people vote, while so many pensioners do? Should voting be compulsory?
- In N Ireland, do we still vote along tribal lines of orange and green? Is there really a third grouping of ‘neithers’? Will we really get an extra billion, or will the welfare ‘reforms’ now bit hard here?
- And should half of us move to Scotland (or Brighton) while the other half goes down south?
Robert Campbell is a retired surgeon.