What a night.
Some very preliminary thoughts:
It looks as if David Cameron may (at this stage, I emphasize the “may”) win an absolute majority, feeble stuff compared with Tory victories back in the day, but still a remarkable achievement, made all the more enjoyable by the defeats of some of the less likable characters in British politics: George Galloway (check out this story), and two of the more unlovely Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable (politics of envy) and Ed Davey (hugely destructive as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change).
Where did the pollsters go wrong? Probably by underestimating the amount of “shy Tories” that there are. Brits should pause to think of what it says about the country’s intellectual climate that so many voters on one side of the aisle are unwilling to disclose their voting preferences.
Perhaps the most consequential news of the night is almost North Korean sweep (except democratic!) of the Scottish National Party in its homeland. With the “English” Tories likely to be running the U.K. government and with the size of their surprise success partly the consequence of English dislike for the thought of a Labour/SNP ”coalition,” the stage is now being set for a second referendum, assuming that the SNP win a good majority in the Scottish general election next year (they will). If that’s the case, that will be a perfect springboard for a reversal of last year’s referendum. The best chance of avoiding that result will be the establishment of a fully federal UK, with each of the four home nations running its own affairs. Will Cameron have the imagination, the nerve and the time to introduce such changes? We’ll see.
What Cameron will have to do is pay far more attention to his backbenchers, who (as a rule) are to his right. That may bode well for a much tougher line on Europe.
And talk of Europe brings talk of UKIP. It still seems likely that Nigel Farage has lost his seat. If this does mean, as he has said, the end of his political career, that will leave UKIP in disarray. At the same time, in terms of votes (if not seats), the party looks to have had a very good night, racking up a large number of votes from voters who the Tories have been unable to reach for decades. There’s a clear message there for the Conservatives. Will they pay any attention?