Change at the top
The polls were horribly wrong. The closest election for years proved nothing of the kind. David Cameron is back in Downing Street with a 15 seat parliamentary majority. Three of the seven party leaders who took part in the leaders TV debate resigned on Friday. Cameron and the Tories appear utterly in command. Yet that command may prove less enduring as the years unfold. Here are my thoughts three days after the most unpredictable election since 1992.
David Cameron’s majority has shrunk, not increased
The Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition had a majority of 76 in the House of Commons. It ensured a relatively smooth ride over its five year term. True, the two parties had their fractious moments, especially over the voting reform referendum, which the Tories torpedoed. But the coalition proved far more stable than anyone expected in 2010.
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Follow my leader: #leadersdebate
The 2010 #leadersdebate series electrified that election campaign. It was a first for a British general election. It made Nick Clegg famous, as Gordon Brown and David Cameron competed to agree with Nick.
Women on top: Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon at #leadersdebate
Tonight’s debate was very different. There were seven leaders crowding the stage. Refreshingly, three were women: the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon; Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett. Most of us thought they won the day, with their good manners, willingness to listen and different approach. At one point the men got into a shouting match – showing they care nothing about voter disdain for such hooligan tactics. (Just as they’ve not changed PMQs.) And the three women weren’t English. Diversity in action.
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What a surprise. The culture secretary Maria Miller defrauded the taxpayer by dishonestly claiming expenses on a second home her parents live in. Had she been a benefit fraudster, she’d have been jailed. But she’s a cabinet minister, so she’ll be deciding on press regulation instead.
Five years after the Daily Telegraph exposed the industrial scale on which MPs were defrauding us by false expense claims, politicians are as shameless as ever.
No wonder Nigel Farage is a happy man. No matter how repellent his policies, the outsider is reaping the rewards from public disgust at the outrages of the political establishment. He must have been amazed at his luck when Nick Clegg agreed to debate Europe. Clegg, the former outsider, is now the ultimate insider: the cheerleader for the coalition, after breaking all his election promises. (And having made a good living from the EU gravy train.)
Back to Maria Miller. David Cameron has proved as false as Tony Blair in promising to clean up politics. This shameless politician asked the press to drop the matter today. Miller threatened the parliamentary watchdog in a bid to force the commissioner to drop action against her. And her adviser threatened the Telegraph. These people simply don’t care. They have contempt for the taxpayers who are forced to pay to keep the gravy train on the rails. Politicians’ promises are empty words, given cheaply unlike their expense claims.
PS: the Telegraph tonight published the chilling threatening call from Miller’s adviser. The adviser for the minister deciding press freedom.