I was surprised that so many were surprised by the Conservative Party’s victory in the British election. The two key drivers in most national elections are (1) the state of the economy and (2) the quality of the candidates.
The state of the British economy provided no basis to believe that voters wanted a change. As Frank Luntz points out, unemployment was low and economic confidence high.
As for the candidates, after watching an hour of the debates, it was difficult to see why, other things being roughly equal, voters would prefer Ed Miliband over David Cameron. Cameron was a better debater and a more mature presence.
Absent major economic or foreign policy difficulties, it should have been clear that British voters were unlikely to turn over the reins of government to the wimpish, uninspiring Miliband. Perhaps reports about his string of glamorous ex-girl friends propped him up. Or does that only happen in France?
In fairness to Miliband, the rout of his party in Scotland cannot be blamed on his personal shortcomings. Scotland has become so dominated by leftist ideology that Labour was bound to lose out to the SNP unless it veered radically to the left. But to have done so during relatively good economic times would have been fatal to Labour outside of Scotland.
The election thus reinforces my view that, on balance, England would be better off if Scotland had voted to break away. Imagine if Labour and the SNP had, between them, won a majority of seats. In this scenario, Labour would have been driven far to the left in order to form a governing coalition.
This time around, the Conservative party won a clean majority. But sooner or later, it will lose at the ballot box — good economic times won’t continue forever. When this occurs, Britain likely will be ruled by a ruinously leftist, anti-American coalition.
Meanwhile, the long-term status of Scotland is unclear. The SNP reportedly is considering putting a new referendum on independence into its party program for regional elections a year from now.
Apparently, Scottish independence is like the European Union in reverse. With the EU, countries keep voting until they agree to union. It may be that the Scots will keep voting until they agree to disunion.
Speaking of the EU, the election is not without implications for it. Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on Britain’s continued membership in the EU. It seems unlikely that, under present conditions, Britain would vote to leave. But different conditions might yield a different result. And even now, roughly one-third of Conservatives members of Parliament are said to favor leaving the EU.
Cameron himself is expected to make certain demands of the EU, most notably modifications to the free labor, free movement system. Such modifications will probably prove difficult to obtain. If the EU gives Cameron nothing, it will strengthen the case for pulling out.
If Britain were to leave the EU, it seems almost certain that Scotland would leave Britain.
Finally, what are the implications of the election for British domestic policy? Able now to govern without the Liberal Party, will Cameron rule more in the spirit of Margaret Thatcher?
Cameron and George Osborne, his chancellor of the Exchequer, have issued a manifesto calling for significant spending cuts to reduce the deficit and the debt. But I’m not convinced that Cameron, who strikes me as cautious and not terribly conservative, will make a strong effort to deliver or that, if he does, he will have sufficient backing from his Party.