The polls were wrong. The Tories, against all odds, got the outcome Lynton Crosby promised. Labour has been crushed, in a defeat both unexpected and profoundly unfair. The people have spoken. The bastards.
So what do we do, those of us who disliked the coalition, and fear a full-blooded Conservative administration?
Firstly we need to brace ourselves for the next five years.
The Conservatives have a majority. But it is a slim one. All governments face by-elections, and they usually lose them. It is entirely possible that this will not be a majority government for the full five years. That opens the door to clever Opposition tactics.
A major factor in the election result must surely have been Scotland. The Tories and the SNP worked hand-in-glove to play the post-referendum game to their own advantage. Cameron has no interest in Scotland. He doesn’t need them to win, indeed, he’s better off rid of them, one way or another. He’ll give them full fiscal autonomy, and be done with it. But this does mean that the Tories cannot play the ‘Scotland Card’ again. It’s a one-use-only Joker.
The economy is not in good shape, and there are plenty of pitfalls ahead globally. The sunny uplands that feature in Cameronian and Osbornean rhetoric are largely illusory. There will be trouble.
Housing is a time bomb. All across the UK there are places where few younger people and families can afford to buy a home, and where renting is insecure and of low quality. It can and must be a key issue and pressure point on the government, for the market has no answers here. We need to be making waves on housing, with real solutions on offer. Danny Dorling has suggested some good ones.
Education is also a pressure point. The government’s education policy has no answers to the problem of securing an adequate number of school places in many areas. Sometimes education policy seems abstract or abstruse, but a place for every child is a simple matter that anyone can understand, and it can’t be fudged. Pop up Free schools in old garages are no solution. Most parents attended proper schools in proper building staffed by trained teachers. They can see with their own eyes if their kids are being fobbed off with something sub-standard. We have to own this story, too.
But our immediate priority is around constitutional reform. Cameron today is repeating “English Votes For English Laws”. That’s not the issue. The issue is electoral reform and devolution to the regions. Both should be decided by debate and not by diktat.
Electoral reform firstly, because plainly the voting system is bust. It does not accord with multi-party democracy, regionalism, nor basic fairness. We need a system where every vote counts. Our narrative, from this day on, must be that the system isn’t fair. We need to repeat that like a drumbeat.
Regional devolution is a harder sell. It took the Scots years and much effort on the part of political activists and academics to make the case for devolution into a popular cause. Our system of local government encourages insularity, and the calibre of some local leaders isn’t always good. We need larger regional units, even where this upsets local rivalries. The Tory solution – imposing Mayors – is a bad system (as are Police and Crime Commissioners, but that’s by the way). Regional assemblies representing a range of opinion, urban and rural, and all demographics, is necessary. Local government need to be pressured into taking a lead on modelling what such a change might be. Regional devolution from below.
We also need a serious voter registration drive coupled with voter engagement. People in rental property, younger people, and poorer people are less likely to be on the register. They must feel able to get their voices heard.
Today David Cameron basks in his success. God knows how, but he did win an election. Let him enjoy it even as we weep. But hard times, for him as well as for us, lie ahead. Let us harness our anger and turn it to resolution. Let us hone our own stories and repeat them with wit and imagination and fervour until others own them, too.
We can create a movement for change. After all, there are still millions of us out there.