ELECTION 2015: THE NIGHT SCOTLAND MADE HISTORY

BILL JAMIESON

A tartan tsunami; a tectonic shift; a lion’s roar from the glens. In an astounding election night the hyperbole of the pundits could scarcely match the scenes as one Labour bastion after another fell to the SNP.

And while that drama unfolded, David Cameron inched steadily closer to winning an overall majority at Westminster – the outcome no poll predicted.

An SNP surge long looked on the cards. But the scale of the party’s victory exceeded the expectations of its most exuberant supporters.

How did the polls get it so wrong? Long after the shock wakeup call of the BBC exit poll showing a clear Tory lead over Labour, the pundits were still spluttering with incredulity. “This poll must be wrong… they’re missing the reality on the ground in my constituency… the Lib Dem vote is still holding up…. Blah blah blah.”

Pity the bookies who were riding on a result somewhere close to all those polls in the final weeks – the ones that showed Tories and Labour neck and neck – every single one of them.

Paddy Power reckons the bookies have been hit “for a spanking eight figure sum payout across the industry” with Cameron being returned as PM.
Paddy Power said: “I haven’t been this cleaned out since my last colonic irrigation.”

Scotland has now written itself onto the global political history books as one of the most sensational election outcomes in a century. Just when you thought a 33 per cent swing had set a record, along came another with 35 per cent, then 37 per cent – then 39 per cent.

For decades Scottish Labour election results were barely commented on by the pundits. The words “Labour Hold” seemed to be permanently glued onto the names of Glasgow constituencies as they trundled along at the bottom of the TV screen election ticker tape.

But last night was different. Very different.

It was like watching a wrecking ball hurtling towards the top Labour skittles: Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander losing to 20 year old student Mhairi Black; Jim Murphy going out on a 24 per cent swing; Margaret Curran toppled; Ian Davidson out on his ear, firing as he departed a nasty and mean-spirited assault on the Scottish Labour leader.

By breakfast time the SNP had secured 56 Scottish seats out of a total 59. One of the victors was our Scot-Buzz columnist George Kerevan.

So where does it all go from here?

Three snap summations:

LEADERSHIP CHANGE

Jim Murphy to be replaced as Scottish labour leader as he is no longer an MP.

Nick Clegg to be replaced as Lib Dem leader. Does it matter much who succeeds him as driver of the Lib Dem minivan?

Ed Miliband to be replaced as Labour leader. Paddy Power makes it 1/3 for him to resign by the end of the week. Andy Burnham 9/4 fav for next Labour leader, from Yvette Cooper (7/2), Chuka Umunna (9/2), Dan Jarvis (6/1), David Miliband 12/1.

Nigel Farage – hanging on by the skin of his teeth though UKIP can now claim to be the third largest party in England.

MARKET CHANGE

On financial markets, the pound has rallied to its highest level against the dollar since late February as the BBC forecast Cameron within sight of 325 seats – enough to form a slender majority.

A big relief here for many Scot Buzz business readers fearful of higher taxes and unfriendly business regulation. Sterling jumped nearly 2% to $1.5523 against the dollar in Asian trade. And it gained more than two per cent against the euro, rising to €1.3841.

Analysts said the sterling jumped because the projected result meant the government’s agenda was likely to stay consistent.

However, the rally could prove short-lived as uncertainty over a possible “Brexit” (Britain leaving the EU) and a possible Scoxit (a re-run of the Scottish referendum) looming ahead over the next two years.

Commenting on the result, Bill O’Neill, Head of the UK Investment Office at UBS Wealth Management, said that the odds “were stacked against such a decisive outcome. This result is far less complicated than the markets’ worst fears. But we are still dealing with a government with a miniscule working majority at best.

“Once people acclimatise to the certain outcome eyes will immediately turn to the challenges lying ahead. Brexit and Scoxit will now become chief concerns.

“The question on politicians’ lips will be ‘can the newly vindicated Cameron hold the line against a resurgent set of backbenchers?’ The UKIP rise has been substantial and this sends a clear anti-EU message. Without the Lib Dems in place to water down opposition, a more robust approach on the EU Referendum could emerge.

“Markets will respond swiftly today and in the coming days. With certainty will come a renewed confidence from investors in a more stable and transparent policy climate. For now, let’s enjoy the relief rally.

“A renewed commitment to austerity should support gilts.

“The good news is that the current fiscal trajectory remains firmly in place. Importantly, the Bank of England will not be confronted by a change in the fiscal framework. This could prompt lower for longer interest rates.”

AND FINALLY….

What credibility is left in opinion polling? For weeks the polls pointed to Labour and the Tories locked in a deadly embrace with no sign of any Tory upsurge.

What went so wrong for the pundits? Did those surveyed lie to them? Did they not make up their minds till the last minute? Did they have a swoon in the polling booth?

As with the Scottish referendum result, opinion polls fail to capture the quieter, less demonstrative voter – as opposed to those voicing their strident opinions in TV studios or into BBC microphones.

Among the many inquests that now fall due, one here is certainly merited.

The biggest consequential of course – in addition to the torrid despatch of Ed Balls – will be a changed UK constitution – for this election is a colossal game-changer for the whole of the UK.

David Cameron has to make some bold moves if he is to hold the UK together during this parliament.  He has some room for manoeuvre here as UKIP, in terms of parliamentary representation, is nothing like the threat it seemed a few weeks ago.

He could move quickly with the ‘more powers’ agenda and at the same time announce a Big Tent Constitutional Convention, with all options open on a federal UK and House of Lords reform.

It will not be easy for him to secure co-operation from the SNP but equally the SNP would be churlish not at least to consider such a convention if it was offered fair representation and a definite time limit for conclusion and implementation.

“Locking out the Tories” may be in retrospect Nicola Sturgeon’s least sensible soundbite. And how ironic that the result of this election could well be a massive move to a federal Britain while the party that championed this cause for decades has shrunk back to a 1950s campervan.

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