If you look at the map of political power in the UK now – with red for Labour seats won, blue for Tory, Yellow for SNP – you see some very clear divisions and deployments :
Almost all of Scotland : SNP
Much of the North of England, the Midlands and Wales (though much less than before) : Labour
Almost everywhere through the south of England : Conservative
The exception in this last and largest region is a blob of red in and around London. There are also little spots of red where other English cities are – Bristol, Southampton and – surprisingly – Exeter.
So what significance does all this have, if any ? It shows very starkly :
1/ The north/south and also the “Celtic/Saxon” divide between Left and Right ;
2/ In England, another divide, this one between countryside and city. The countryside represents an old and displaced economy based on agriculture ; and nowadays it is where the wealthy live, with their horses and Range Rovers and computers.
With several familiar leaders and other prominent figures either being unseated or falling on their swords within hours of the election result, this is certainly a great and extraordinary triumph for Cameron and his divisive energy, his skilled and irresponsible manipulation of divides, his smooth aggression, his plausible but consistently deceitful language, his politics of fear and propaganda, his allies in a press owned by tycoons who hate regulation as much as he does. But his class and his philosophy simply do not provide the answers and vision this country and our civilisation need for a viable future. They offer just a canopy of nastiness and disconnection in which too many of our fellow-citizens have taken cover. Long-term, this election result suggests a profound disaster for our nation, not just for its poor. If Cameron sees himself as being part of the UK, then – at some level, not of course apparent to him – it is a profound disaster even for him, as well.
Another conclusion to draw from the map is how tiny are the patches on it which have a different colour from the three just mentioned. One constituency for the Greens ; one for UKIP ; a vastly decreased number of Lib Dem constituencies ; three for Plaid Cymru. Is this multi-party politics, supposedly taking over from the two party monoliths ? Surely not.
The SNP will be a much more vital Opposition in Westminster than Labour will, for months to come at the very least. (For all our sakes, might not the two parties look for ways to join forces ?). But the main picture in the House of Commons now is surely very different from the multi-party alliances so recently being planned for ; for the foreseeable future, there will be effectively one-party rule in England, the party of Me and Mine largely unchallenged, powered by horse and Range Rover.
Even in these times, one takes some sort of weird comfort from words which others find that seem to say something true, even about the almost unbearably painful. Here are two such comments, presumably written in exhaustion after an awful night for the writers, as for so many of the rest of us. Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones on that tweeted kiss : “I find it exhausting to hate Cameron,” says Jones. So do I. The next five years will be exhausting for very many people. And here’s Martin Kettle, also from the Guardian, drawing strands together that describe succinctly the enormity of what has just happened, so dramatically fast : “Many were poised on Wednesday, as the polls narrowed, to conclude that Miliband would deserve huge personal credit for sticking to what seemed potentially to be a modestly successful Labour strategy through the campaign. Now, on Friday, those enthusiasts must confront the question of responsibility for what [in a few hours] has turned into a failed strategy, about which far too many on the left were far too sanguine and self-deceiving for far too long. They got their party back [the party that fails]. And look what has happened. Now what?”