I found myself oddly pleased this morning.
I was sorry that Nigel Farage didn’t win in Thanet South. I thought that he would be an asset to parliament. But it wasn’t a big surprise. Lots of people had been saying that he was going to lose. And he did. But UKIP notched up approaching 4 million votes.
So what was I pleased about?
Well, I was delighted that the Labour and Lib Dem parties had taken such a tremendous hammering. After all, it was the Labour party (and some 90% of its MPs) that brought in the smoking ban 8 years ago. And in this they were assisted by the Lib Dems (and 95% of their MPs). The latter was something that ended my days as a Lib Dem voter: in doing that the Lib Dems had shown themselves to be neither liberal nor democratic. And now they’d all got what they deserved, in part perhaps at the hands of smokers who voted for UKIP.
I was also delighted that a) we still have a parliamentary democracy, b) we have a government, and c) we have a Conservative government. Because but for the Conservative refusal to even consider repealing or amending the smoking ban, I would probably have voted Conservative yesterday.
The surprise result also means that David Cameron is greatly strengthened. And Boris won’t be taking over any time soon, even though he’s now back in parliament. And now that Cameron has been released from the corpse of Clegg, maybe we’ll see a real Conservative government in operation.
And I found myself wondering, like Rose, whether that might include a relaxation of the smoking ban. After all, it was the illiberal Clegg, not Cameron, who said it was more likely that the death penalty would be restored than the smoking ban relaxed. Cameron has been largely silent on the matter.
But since it remains my view that UKIP is the real conservative party in Britain, there must be a constant temptation for the Conservatives to steal their conservative policies (including a relaxation of the smoking ban). It might be said that Cameron has been forced in recent years to pay his respects to the Green God and the Evil Empire of Health. But does he need to do that any more now? What’s to stop him when the “progressive” left is now in complete disarray? Hasn’t Britain just rejected the sort of top-down utopian socialism embodied in smoking bans?
And since Douglas Carswell is now the sole UKIP MP (and thus effectively the UKIP parliamentary leader) and until last year he was a Conservative MP, I can imagine that it might be possible to engineer some sort of re-unification of UKIP’s dissident Conservatives with their parent party, particularly if Cameron now steers the Conservative party rightwards, as it now seems to me to be open to him to do.
The greatest danger for Cameron over the next few years is that Conservative backbenchers will use his slim majority to throw their weight around like they did in John Major’s time.
I think that over the next 5 years we’ll find out whether Cameron is a conservative who was forced to trim his sails to the prevailing political wind, or whether he’s really as Green and Health-conscious and pro-European as he’s been presenting himself all along.
I can’t say I’m particularly optimistic. But I think he’ll come under mounting pressure to adopt conservative policies for what is now a Conservative government.
Anyway, it’s an odd day when three party leaders resign their leadership within an hour of each other. I think Miliband and Clegg will now vanish back into obscurity. But I’m sure that Nigel Farage will re-emerge in due course.