In front of a half-empty stadium, a lacklustre game between a weakened actual poll data team and a full-strength side of over-enthusiastic extrapolators has produced an overwhelming victory for the latter. Let me be clear. You may have noticed that I am not an enthusiastic supporter of our coalition government. I have not been applauding the decision of the Liberal Democrats to enter into their Faustian bargain with the Tories. I do not believe that their collective medicine for the ailing patient that is our country at the moment is likely to do anything more than weaken that patient further, and at the cost of misery for many of our fellow citizens who will suffer unemployment, humiliation, and destitution.
You might think therefore that I’d be egging on all those commentators who are busy leading, not on Labour’s victory, but on the Liberal Democrats’ lowly sixth place in the poll. That I’d be adding to their analyses of doom for the coalition’s junior partners with a resounding “serves you bloody-well right and I hope you never recover”. And that I’d be reading all kinds of significance into the baleful fact that the Liberals cannot even beat off the British National Party, never mind the assorted lunatics that make up the UK Independence Party.
Well, I’m not doing any of those things, and for some simple and blatantly obvious reasons. As everyone who’s moaning about the first-past-the-post system never tire of telling us, Barnsley is one of those “tribal” constituencies where Labour would win even if it fielded a stuffed dummy, which you might be forgiven for thinking that it had in fact done for the last 20 years and more whilst Eric Illsley was MP. He certainly stuffed himself, that’s for sure. I have no problem at all with there being constituencies where party is much more important than personality. In fact, it is a much needed antidote to politics as beauty contest. But regardless of one’s view about the rights and wrongs of tribal constituencies, it is entirely accurate to say that this election was a foregone conclusion. And that no-one who voted with any intention other than that of backing Labour could possibly have done so with the idea that their vote might make a difference. That doesn’t worry me in the slightest and I’ve explained elsewhere why I do not consider that describing such votes as “wasted” makes either logical or emotional sense. But it does mean that non-Labour voters are relieved of the responsibility of casting their votes either sensibly or seriously. That’s probably the real explanation for UKIP’s success in second place, and although it’s horrible to think that the BNP can ever beat a party which, whilst misguided, is hardly heinous, those who are stupid, ignorant, and vile enough to vote for the BNP will take every opportunity to prove their repulsiveness. The Liberal Democrats will, in contrast, undoubtedly have suffered from “coalition blues”, but trying to read their longer-term electoral demise into this result is foolishness personified.
It really would be better if professional or amateur psephologists spent less time reading nonsense into data that simply cannot support the weight of their hyperactive conclusions.