This was the headline on the BBC News website after the local election results on the 3rd May 2012. The Coalition has indeed suffered great losses but it is no less than anybody would have expected and nothing particularly out of the ordinary. It is quite a standard electoral response in the middle of a negative and destructive term of governance. Some suggest the results are significant, others argue the opposite, and frankly I’m not sure it matters.
What we can be sure about is that the result has very little to do with all the ‘hard work’ that has gone into canvassing and campaigning by politicians. Believing that this has anything to do with the political promises, empty rhetoric and slogans is misguided, and the responses from the main party leaders show them to be inspired by this delusion too (at least outwardly).
This is especially true for Ed Miliband. If he thinks, like the BBC seems to, that this was Labour punishing the Coalition then he needs to come back down to earth. The punishing has not come from Labour, rather it has come generally through Labour (and others) from the electorate. Labour are a tool, apparently the only ‘effective’ tool that this system has to offer. The results mean very little, they change very little and we should be under no pretenses about this. If the shoe was on the other foot then the Conservatives or Lib Dems would be the tool of punishment – this is just what happens.
The most significant statistic is the turnout, which seems to show the true view of the people. Around 68% of the UK electoral chose not to vote. It is vitally important to take that into account. People don’t believe in politics. Not just in politicians. I’m not sure people have ever really had faith in politicians, but rather in the system itself. The general rule of politics is that promises are made, power is gained and promises are broken. We all know this is what happens. During political campaigns we suspend our disbelief and pretend to forget that we know that it’s a culture of broken promises and obfuscation but yesterday’s turnout showed that, people on the whole just couldn’t be bothered to even pretend on this occasion.
The bottom line is there is no victory for Labour; rather it is a damning indictment of politics. No one involved in these elections has political reason to celebrate.