A new government takes shape



  • The story so far

    The story of the election has been, so far, the rise of the SNP and the collapse of the Labour vote in Scotland.  If we take the IPSOS/Mori poll for the BBC at face value they are suggesting the nationalists will end the night with 58 seats, that’s up from only 6 in 2010. By any estimation this would be an extraordinary outcome that was unthinkable only a few months ago.

    However, if Scottish voters imagined that by voting SNP they could drag a Labour-led government to the left then this looks, on the basis of the BBC exit poll, to be something of a miscalculation.  However, it would leave the SNP as the third largest party in the House, by some distance.  It would raise all sorts of questions about how that block would behave at Westminster, given that so much speculation so far has been around their possible influence on Prime minister Miliband.

    Depending on the final SNP share of the vote, they may change tact and claim legitimacy for a second independence referendum, especially after a possible successful Holyrood election in 2016. These circumstances, a second Tory-led coalition government, might be the ‘material change’ that Nicola Sturgeon suggested would have to happen for the SNP to campaign for a second referendum in 2016. With David Cameron back in Downing St and a rampant SNP, who would bet on a second Scottish referendum not producing a Yes vote?


    3 years ago
  • Universities and the Union

    In my time in Aberystwyth studying politics and history, we researched the ‘Three Wales’ model. This was the idea that that nation’s cultural, political and linguistic identity were in three parts (Y Fro (Welsh speaking Wales); Welsh Wales & British Wales). If tonight’s results are as predicted in the BBC exit poll – we could now be seeing a ‘Three Britain’ model: Nationalist Scotland, Tory England and Labour Wales.

    Higher education policies have certainly already diverged during the 15 years of devolution, but if tonight turns out as predicted surely we will deviate even further? A more and more diverse sector in England, with the maximum fee cap raised further; continuation of no fees for domestic students in Scotland and a dirigiste approach; and a planned sector in Wales, but seeking even more departure from the consumerist, market approach in England.

    If, as it seems, England has found its voice tonight – and it’s singing a Tory tune – how sustainable is the UK’s funding approach to the nations, a UK higher education market, and perhaps even the Union itself…


    3 years ago
  • Seats to watch – Cardiff Central

    Labour will be keen to win Cardiff Central back tonight. Home to campuses of Cardiff Uni, Cardiff Met, South Wales and The OU in Wales’s HQ, it’s a key university constituency with a student population in the thousands in the districts of Cathays, Roath and Riverside.

    A Lib Dem fortress during the early years of the century, the party lost the Welsh Assembly seat in 2011 and control of the council in 2012. Jenny Willott has been the MP since 2005, but faces a strong Labour campaign in order to keep hold of the seat. A tuition-fees rebel, she stood down from her position as a government whip last year to concentrate on her re-election campaign.

    A Labour win has long been thought probable, but the Lib Dems have picked up support over the last few months and is likely to be a lot closer than previously predicted. Willott goes into the election with a majority of 4,000+.


    3 years ago
  • Exit poll wars

    In the wonk bunker we are trying to make sense of the BBC IPSOS/Mori exit poll like everyone else. It puts the Conservatives on 316 seats, with Labour on 239, the SNP on 58 and Lib Dems on only 10, and gains for UKIP and the Greens (2 each). However, other polls are available. YouGov are saying Conservatives on 284 with Labour on 263, Lib Dems on 31 and SNP on 48. This looks to be much more in line with what the polling data has been saying through out the campaign.

    However, this poll is not quite an exit poll.  It’s a survey of the same voters over the last two days. That YouGov poll gives the share of the vote as Cons 36%, Lab 35%, UKIP 11%, LD 8% and Greens 5%. Electoral Calculus offer a different picture. You may recall that they were most accurate at the same time in 2010. They are putting the Conservatives on 280, Labour on 274, Lib Dems on 21 and SNP on 51. Again this Electoral Calculus poll is their last pre-election prediction. As the early marginal results come in we will see how secure that IPSOS/Mori poll really is.

    Incidentally, IPSOS/Mori also run the NSS on behalf of HEFCE.


    3 years ago
  • Bedfordshire

    If the BBC poll is right, then it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the bellwether seats that are also home to campuses of the University of Bedfordshire. Seats such as Bedford (Con majority of 1353) and Milton Keynes South (Con majority of 5201) will not be moving from the blue column to the red.

    These are ‘must wins’ for Ed Miliband if he hopes to lead the largest party in the next parliament. If the Tories can hold on them, then it’s likely that the shock BBC exit poll is nearer to the truth than not, despite the reaction of Paddy Ashdown, Harriet Harman et al. That’ll be bad news for former NUS President Andrew Pakes, who’s standing for Labour in Milton Keynes. The University’s biggest campus is in Luton South, a former swing seat, but it would have to be a very bad night for Labour (even worse than the BBC poll) for popular and talented local MP Gavin Shuker to lose the seat.

    Whatever happens, it’ll be a fascinating night for UoB students on @RadioLaB971fm who are covering those seats tonight.


    3 years ago
  • Politicians and their doctorates

    There’s a bit of a lull until we get some concrete results now, we’ve been looking up the PhD titles of MPs (or candidates – as they still are). There hasn’t been a lot of academic talent in our Parliament over the last few years, but where we’ve had it, it’s been quite intriguing.

    Here are some politicians and their doctorate titles:

    Vince Cable:

    Economic integration and the industrialisation of small, developing nations: the case of Central America

    Stella Creasy:

    Understanding the lifeworld of social exclusion

    Jesse Norman:

    Visual Reasoning in Euclid’s Geometry

    Caroline Lucas:

    Writing for Women: a study of woman as reader in Elizabethan romance

    John Redwood:

    Reason, Ridicule and Religion: Age of Enlightenment in England

    Oliver Letwin:

    Ethics, Emotion and the Unity of the Self

    Have any more? Send them in to us on Twitter.

    Mark & Dewi

    3 years ago
  • Stepping down

    The 2015 election sees 90 MPs stepping down from parliament. They include former Universities and Science minister David Willetts, who saw out the entire 2010 parliament in the role. He vacates his Havant seat, which should be a easy hold for the Conservatives.

    Another former universities minister, Labour’s John Denham, is also stepping down. His Southampton, Itchen seat is a close Labour-Conservative marginal (36.8% vs 36.3% in 2010) with a strong Lib Dem showing in third. Other notable departures include former ministers Hazel Blears, David Blunkett, Alistair Darling, Frank Dobson, Peter Hain, Jack Straw and of course Gordon Brown for Labour;  Malcolm Bruce, Don Foster and Menzies Campbell for the Liberal Democrats; and Stephen Dorrell, William Hague, Andrew Lansley, Francis Maude, Malcolm Rifkin, Tim Yeo, and George Young for the Conservatives. The House will also be less colourful without Austin Mitchell, Glenda Jackson and Eric Joyce, who are all retiring from Labour’s ranks.


    3 years ago
  • Exit poll

    The BBC have published their exit poll and are predicting:

    Con: 316

    Lab: 239

    SNP: 58

    Lib Dem: 10

    Ukip: 2

    If this result is accurate, then it’s likely David Cameron will remain as Prime Minister with a such a clear lead in seats and other parties probably unable to form a coalition to beat him. It means complete wipeout for the Lib Dems leaving a tiny rump of seats.

    Most pundits agree – this result- if accurate – is far less close than the polls and markets predicted.


    3 years ago
  • The College of Europe

    The new government’s attitude to Europe, and a potential referendum, has been a ‘clear blue water’ issue during the election. So beyond implications for UK HE research funding, what’s the other European university election links for Wonkhe? How about the European postgrad ‘finishing school’ that links the BIS Permanent Secretary (Martin Donnelly) with prominent figures in each of the three main UK parties.

    Once described by the Times as the ”hothouse where the ambitious and talented go to make contacts”, the College of Europe counts Martin Donnelly as an alumnus, alongside the Deputy Prime Minister. In fact, Nick Clegg met his future wife, the international lawyer Miriam González Durántez at the College. Just as Stephen Kinnock (hoping to be new Labour MP for Aberavon) met his future spouse and current Danish PM, Helle Thorning-Schmidt whilst studying at the College.

    Kinnock’s fellow Anglo-Welshman Simon Hughes also studied there, gaining a postgraduate certification in European Studies. Andrew Tyrie, one of the backbench stars of the last Parliament as an effective Chair of the Treasury Select Committee also studied at the College.


    3 years ago
  • Welcome

    Good evening – we are opening the Wonkhe General Election Live Blog. With 40 minutes until the close of polls, broadcasters are not yet allowed to speculate about the outcome, and we await the exit poll due around 10pm – the first real indication about the shape of the next parliament. The final polls were a dead heat between Labour and the Conservatives and most pundits – as well as the betting markets – are predicting a hung parliament – the second in a row.

    Your guide to the HE night has been handily prepared in advance by David Kernohan – you can read it here. We’ll cover all the key developments relating to universities and students as they happen overnight – and as things develop in the wake of the election.

    We’ll keep the blog going at least until the constitutional experts agree about its outcome – so it could be HE that decides things after all…


    3 years ago