Defying expectations, David Cameron, far from being locked out of Downing Street, now has the full bunch of keys (with just 37% of the vote), at least until his slim Commons majority is whittled away over the next five years. He has promised a land of hope and glory, a Britain greater still and greater, one nation, with further devolution to some of the smaller nations the ‘nation’ paradoxically contains. ‘Fairness’ for England even. But the self-governing devolved assemblies that are good enough for others will not do for the English. We can look forward only to more unwanted metro mayors, city ‘deals’ and a continuing denial of regional realities. If things are done for the regions they will be done to the regions, not by them.
Witney might seem unpromising territory for WR. Oxfordshire is a border shire which, despite the defining role of Burford, Dorchester-on-Thames and Oxford in Wessex history and culture, can sometimes seem unsure of its place. Yet we do have growing support there and a good candidate can make a lasting positive impression.
At Witney, our candidate (2nd from left) almost doubled his previous vote there, finishing 7th of 12 candidates. It was our best result since 2001. Colin’s campaign attracted widespread and sincere interest, even from those who ended up placing their cross elsewhere. One emailer to Colin and his team confessed that, “I just wanted to write and say how touched I am by your passion to make this world a better place. And that is so appreciated. You are beautiful human beings.” It is a particular pleasure to record the assistance of the McLoone family, who volunteered as WR counting agents for the long night at the leisure centre, awaiting a declaration that came just before 6.
By then the wider picture had been largely coloured in. Above all there was the unmistakeable roar of the Scottish lion. The fact that Ed Miliband could not do the juggling act of simultaneously keeping on board both the Scots and middle England shows how far rigid, class-based politics is no longer fit for purpose and has to be superseded. Don’t expect fully synchronised universal trends. The Scots will perhaps want to ask why Plaid Cymru and the Greens failed to increase their representation at Westminster, despite a good showing in the leaders’ debates. In the north of Ireland, nationalism actually lost a seat.
This was Nicola Sturgeon’s night as much as it was David Cameron’s. Two Scots with very different visions for Scotland and for the rest of us. Never mind who got the power this time: it’s the direction of travel that matters. The Unionist debacle north of the border will change the Unionist parties, leaving them much less Scottish, while increasing Scots’ sense of being let down by others. Not even the strongest devolved government in the world will alter that very much. Salmond is the new Parnell, and the nationalist tide is still rising. Trident replacement will propel it higher. If Cameron believes that Scotland can be fixed he is likely to be disappointed. Labour will now have to decide whether to go back to Blairism; having dipped their toe into socialist waters and got it shockingly wet, they won’t be offering a real alternative ever again, and so will remain damned in the eyes of the Scottish electorate. Anti-austerity won a landslide; austerity-lite flopped, and deservedly so.
UKIP’s results have generated a new enthusiasm on the Right for proportional representation, once the lonely preserve of a minority on the Left. (It would, among other things, make the SNP’s triumph a lot less triumphal.) The UK’s relationship with the EU will move centre-stage, at least for a short while, during which time our relationship with the UK will be conveniently elbowed off the agenda. Mistrust of the Conservatives, given their abuse of the word ‘localism’, especially over planning issues, is almost tangible in Cameron’s constituency and throughout Wessex.
Anyone who expected this election to resolve the key constitutional issues – who gets to decide what, and what qualifies as real democracy – should now be plainly aware that interesting times are only going to get more interesting. We shall be looking to position ourselves to benefit from the debates unfolding over the next five years, meanwhile looking into the possibility of entering the fray at local government level. We urge supporters of a regional Wessex, wherever they live, to join us in making sure that the wyvern’s roar is heard loud and clear too.