UK Election: Tory Landslide All But Certain On 8 June

A SURPRISE General Election in Britain is certain to gift victory to Theresa May’s Conservative Party, and will as reliably hand Labour its worst loss since 1935; whilst strengthening May’s hand in negotiations over the UK’s exit from the EU has been given as an ostensible pretext, this election is about poleaxing an opposition led by an irrelevant radical socialist and extending the Tories’ hold on office. On both counts, it will succeed convincingly.

It’s an unexpected post from me this morning, as I try to juggle other commitments and obligations with the desire to maintain a regular flow of comment through this column, but if anything could shake a spare hour free to publish something, my favourite political hobby-horse — electoral politics in the United Kingdom — is just the thing to do it.

By now many readers will know that over the past 36 hours, an extraordinary political heist has been engineered by British PM Theresa May; after nine months in office marked by incessant refusals to call an election, and guarantees that the House of Commons would run its full term until 2020, Mrs May has — against a backdrop of 20-point leads over Labour across most reputable opinion polls, and in the face of pleas from her MPs to capitalise on the apparently sunny electoral weather the Tories currently enjoy — called an election for 8 June after a seven-week campaign.

I have held off posting for an extra day pending the result of a vote in the House of Commons, which was needed to set aside the Fixed Terms Act insisted upon by the Liberal Democrats as part of their price for installing the Tories (then led by David Cameron) in office after the inconclusive election of 2010; that ballot was carried overnight in the Commons by a 522-13 margin, removing the only hurdle Mrs May faced in calling a snap election.

Remarkably, the opposition Labour Party — facing annihilation under the pointless leadership of widely disliked radical socialist Jeremy Corbyn — voted for the motion, and frankly, there is something abjectly pathetic about the sight of lemmings lining up to leap gleefully over a cliff. More on Corbyn and Labour shortly.

But first things first: for fellow junkies of British politics, the Telegraph is publishing some excellent rolling coverage that can be accessed here; a small selection of other content can be accessed here and here — we recommend The Spectator as the best boutique source of coverage during the campaign — whilst an excellent consolidated psephological resource I’ve grown well acquainted with over the years, operated by YouGov’s Anthony Wells, is a handy reference point and can be found here, but of course there is plenty of other good material in the market (or keep an eye on my Twitter feed to see who I’m following and what I’m reading from the UK @theredandblue).

I’ve struggled a bit to think of the last time an incumbent government looked as unassailably certain to smash its opponent into a thousand little pieces as Mrs May’s does.

Margaret Thatcher’s landslide in 1983 comes to mind, as does the re-election of Ronald Reagan in 1984; closer to home, it’s hard to ascribe the same upfront inevitability to John Howard’s 2001 and 2004 triumphs, for the Coalition spent much of 2001 looking like losing, and started the 2004 campaign trailing in the polls. State governments led by Labor in Queensland in 2001 and  Victoria in 2002, and by the Liberal Party in Western Australia in 2013, are perhaps nearer the mark.

But the Conservative Party begins this election campaign, on average, nearly 20 percentage points ahead of Labour once the various individual polls are examined and aggregated; in Britain’s first past the post election system, this lead — rounded to 43 to 26 — suggests a thumping Tory victory if replicated on 8 June, and it should be observed that 43 to 26 amounts to a better position than that recorded by Mrs Thatcher in 1983, which resulted in a 144-seat majority and almost 400 seats (397 in fact) in the 650-seat Commons.

Where the polls are concerned, the Tory position ranges from 38% in yesterday’s Opinium survey (which almost identically replicates the actual result of the 2015 election) to 46% from ICM and ComRes. The Opinium poll yesterday is the only survey tabulated in the past ten weeks by any of Britain’s five major polling houses to find Conservative support below 40%, and it will be a sobering fact for anyone looking for a Labour victory to know that at every election since (and including) 1992, opinion polls have consistently overstated eventual support for Labour whilst understating the Tory vote.

So far in 2017, just five of the 36 published opinion polls on Westminster voting intention have found support for the Conservative Party below 40%, and none have found the Tory vote at levels at or below the 37% that delivered a slim majority two years ago. By contrast, just four of those 36 surveys recorded Labour travelling better than the 29% it recorded in 2015, and of those, three found the improvement to be a solitary percentage point.

In other words, Labour is set for the belting of its life: worse than 1983, and worse than anything it suffered in the 1950s; I’m looking at the Tory win of 1935 (which saw Labour emerge with 154 seats in a 615-seat House of Commons) as the benchmark for expectations, although  the 1931 election, which was even better for the Conservatives (470 seats), looks a bit silly in terms of a precedent this time. I do, however, think the Tories stand an excellent chance of recording a 400+ seat haul on 8 June.

The pretext offered by Mrs May to justify the election — that a stronger and renewed mandate would in turn strengthen Britain’s hand at upcoming negotiations over the UK’s pending exit from the European Union — is easy enough to accept, but only on the surface; the truth (as her opponents noted yesterday) is that even with their present slender majority, the Conservatives have faced no parliamentary refusal to trigger the “Brexit process,” and that EU bureaucrats are likely to be just as hostile toward the British position irrespective of whether Mrs May holds office with a majority of 15 or 150.

The real reasons for this election are more base, and not particularly difficult to divine.

Cameron must have been unable to believe his luck two years ago, when the defeated Labour Party chose as its leader a radical socialist of the far Left whose 32-year parliamentary career had thitherto been entirely spent on the backbench; the Tories must have been even more disbelieving when the new opposition leader chose, as his shadow Chancellor (the equivalent of a shadow Treasurer in Australia) another arch-Leftist with decades of experience in the political wilderness, John McDonnell. Both men are, among other things, apologists for the IRA, with little discernible connection or relevance to mainstream British society or to the majority of the people living in it.

One abortive attempt to get rid of Corbyn last year by rebellious Labour MPs had the unintended consequence of strengthening his position; another attempt has been rumoured ever since. The temptation to lock Corbyn in place with an election date has clearly proven irresistible to Mrs May and her strategists, who — unlike their Coalition counterparts in Australia last year, where Bill Shorten was concerned — will now “do” Corbyn properly in such a fashion as to kill him off as a political force altogether.

Even on this point, Labour is proving to be the gift that keeps giving; faced with a slaughter, Corbyn has made it known he plans to remain leader after the looming massacre on 8 June. That event can only be exacerbated by what is already becoming a stream of Labour MPs, flatly opposed to Corbyn’s leadership and disgusted by the direction in which he has taken their party, who are refusing to stand again in their seats — and offering free, vicious and very public character assessments of their leader on the way out the door.

May, like Cameron before her, has been the beneficiary of an economy that has proven surprisingly robust; for much of the past five years the British economy has been the fastest growing in Europe, and at one point was the fastest growing of all OECD nations (including Australia). Predictions of a sharp downturn in the aftermath of last year’s successful referendum to leave the EU have consistently failed to eventuate, although with a growing number of economists forecasting a downturn in the next 18 months (which, to be fair, would affect the rest of Europe as well), going to the polls now rather than in three years’ time makes sense: especially when there are other factors, such as the EU negotiations, which can be used to provide the veneer of legitimacy for doing so.

With the Scottish Nationalist Party’s stranglehold on Scottish seats showing little sign of being broken (apart from an outside chance of Tories picking up an extra couple of seats north of the border), Labour’s scope to make gains at all is severely limited; in a region that traditionally provided a bedrock for British Labour, it currently polls just 10% in Scotland: a situation once unthinkable.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives’ grip on the country appears so unshakeable that I’ve seen credible modelling to suggest the Tories may be on track to win a string of seats in coal mining areas in northern Wales — an outcome, if it eventuates, that was once as unthinkable as Labour being wiped out of Scotland — and if they can take seats from Labour in the Midlands and major centres outside London (Birmingham, Manchester, even Sheffield), the Tories’ victory on 8 June will be a massive one indeed.

The one potential cloud on the horizon in terms of the scale of their win — some unforeseen, colossally destructive (albeit unlikely) campaign gaffe notwithstanding — lies in the dozens of seats the Conservatives won from the Liberal Democrats in 2015; many of these sit on razor-thin margins, and a lot of them were harvested from regions (Devon, Cornwall, Somerset) that long remained good for the Lib-Dems (and the Liberals before them) when the rest of the country abandoned them. Should the Lib-Dems win a solid number of these seats back, it will obviously dull the magnitude of the Tory triumph: not enough to stop it, but perhaps just enough to deny Mrs May the invincibility enjoyed by Mrs Thatcher after 1983.

With seven weeks to go, I will aim to include comment on the British election as we go: as well as keeping an eye on what’s happening here in Australia, and on that score, I should be back within the next day or so.

But if ever there was a case of the planets aligning perfectly for a jaunty field trip to face the voters, Britain’s Conservative Party enjoys exactly that: and whilst it’s never over until the votes are counted, a huge win for Mrs May and the Tories — mirrored by defeat and humiliation for Labour — are in no way in any doubt.

If anyone wants to take a shot at me for making such an unqualified and unilateral prediction, just hold off until 9 June. I’m sure, on that day, you might have second thoughts about doing so.

 

“All F*cked:” UK Labour Elects Socialist Wacko As Leader

CONSERVATIVE PARTY aspirations of a hegemonic period in office to rival the Thatcher-Major years received an immeasurable boost overnight, as British Labour elected its most radical leader since Michael Foot in the 1980s, if not since its formation in 1900; the ascension of socialist fruit cake Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader — even if dumped before an election — will damage Labour badly. For the Tories, hubris is now their greatest opponent.

It will be a relatively succinct comment from me today, knowing as I do that the bulk of this column’s readership does not share my great interest in British politics, but the final act of the general election there that played out overnight cannot be allowed to go unremarked upon.

British Labour — so often irrelevant before and since the thunderous public endorsements obtained by Tony Blair in 1997, 2001 and to a lesser extent 2005 — has completed the long march in its reversion to type overnight, electing far-Left nutcase Jeremy Corbyn as its replacement for beaten leader “Red” Ed Miliband.

In point of fact, if Miliband — with his spiteful, class-obsessed program of rent controls, heightened social spending in the teeth of the record national debt his party left behind in 2010, tax hikes and anti-foreign investment policies — could be characterised as “Red Ed,” the younger Miliband will quickly prove far more moderate than anything likely to be served up by Corbyn.

In a result that has stunned seasoned Westminster observers and ricocheted across the world, Corbyn won against three other candidates on the first ballot, scoring 59.5% of the vote under Labour’s arcane leadership balloting process that gives weight to MPs, British trade unions, and rank and file Labour members. That the party has the leader its constituent parts wanted is beyond question, but Labour will rue the fact of Corbyn’s election for many, many years to come.

The heir to…Foot? Last time Labour selected a leader from the far Left, it split the party and led to such a heavy defeat at the ensuing election in 1983 it took 15 years and three terms for the party to recover. (Picture: The Guardian)

In the aftermath of Corbyn’s victory, a sizeable portion of the Labour frontbench has resigned; the only reason I am not going to say how many of them have quit is because I can’t: at the time of publishing, 10 senior Labour shadow ministers have already jumped ship and the resignations show no sign of abating.

It seems Corbyn will now select a frontbench largely composed of otherwise irrelevant — and in some cases, downright dangerous — figures from the hard-Left socialist rump that has spent decades on the back benches of the House of Commons where they belong.

No party of extremists (or a party led by an extremist) has ever won election to office in the United Kingdom, and Corbyn Labour will prove no different — if, that is, the new leader makes it through a full five-year term to contest a general election at all.

And in an age when, more than ever, elections in western democratic countries are won from the sensible centre by moderately right-wing and left-wing parties, British Labour now faces the embarrassing prospect of being committed to policies discredited decades ago by a lunatic who has himself spent his entire 32-year political career on the backbench on account of the insidious and in some cases almost seditious nature of his policy views.

Corbyn’s policy agenda reads like some capitulation to a wish list from the Brezhnev- or Andropov-led USSR hellbent on the destruction of the West and the engineering of its exposure to takeover by a subjugating hostile power: it’s that bad.

He apparently wants Britain to withdraw from the EU — something I support (or at least, I support withdrawal from those aspects of the EU that relate to political and social union) — but that’s just the start of it.

He wants Britain to both exit NATO and abolish its Trident nuclear deterrent: relegating the UK completely to the status of a client state of the US at best, where matters of sovereignty and national defence are concerned, or abandoning it to the wolves altogether at a time of resurgent international tension and the renewed risk of global conflict with Russia at worst.

He is an IRA sympathiser and apologist for sectarian violence; he has denounced the 1982 conflict in the Falkland Islands and advocated “shared sovereignty” (whatever that is) over the Atlantic territory despite a clear majority of Britons and almost all of the Islanders wanting the Falklands to remain a British dependency.

He is opposed to the UK joining military action in Syria and Iraq to attempt to rid the Middle East of the scourge that is ISIS, tacitly endorsing this threat to regional and global peace in so doing, and risking the eventual scenario of a localised Armageddon in one of the world’s most notoriously dangerous hot spots should fanatical Islamic interests ever gain access to nuclear weapons.

He wants to ramp up taxes on individuals and businesses, and channel the proceeds into expanded welfare and social spending: destroying incentive and productivity and building dependency upon the state at a stroke.

He wants to dumb down Education into a one-size-fits-all “state service,” where uniformity transcends standards, setting Britain’s future course for decline as the country grows stupider and more ignorant at the behest of Corbyn’s crazed visions of socialist utopia.

All of this is just for starters in a mad, bad agenda to turn “modern” Britain into some socialist laboratory designed to achieve God alone knows what.

Already, some in the UK are talking of the end of the mainstream Left as Labour, under Corbyn, seems set to pursue an outdated and discredited Marxist agenda that if implemented would devastate British society or, indeed, the society of any other country stupid enough to attempt to emulate it.

And already, there is talk of attempts to overthrow Corbyn — next week, next year, within two years — that will merely guarantee, thankfully, the utter collapse of social democracy in the UK as a viable democratic alternative — for those who want it.

I would suggest the fact almost 60% of Labour’s voting blocs elected Corbyn outright means he isn’t going anywhere, irrespective of the mooted insurgencies against his leadership.

And that — less than 10% through its second term in office — makes the Conservative Party an almost certain bet to win a third when it next faces the British public in 2020.

SCARY…socialist fruit cake Jeremy Corbyn is the new leader of British Labour. (Picture: unilad.co.uk)

I provide two pieces of extra reading today for those interested; here and here.

There is, ironically enough, a big opportunity for the Liberal Democrats in all of this; the old Liberal Party having been displaced as the main non-Tory bloc by Labour as it emerged and then achieved critical mass in the 1920s and 1930s still provides the most feasible way for social democrats to abandon the moribund socialist platform Corbyn seems certain to inflict on Labour. Decimated as it was in May, Corbyn’s election offers the Lib-Dems its greatest opportunity to achieve critical mass in its own right in decades.

But it won’t take it, for the Lib-Dems — their ill-fated stint as coalition partners to David Cameron’s Conservatives aside — have been restored by a thumping decimation to the role they are happiest in: permanent opposition, whining, carping, and the freedom from responsibility that total unelectability confers upon them.

All of this points to a truth that is both an opportunity and a threat.

The prospect of at least another one to two terms in office now beckons for the Tories; even if Corbyn is somehow dislodged before he can fight an election, the internal bloodshed and chaos will mean the only plausible option for forming government in the UK will remain the Conservative Party.

For a party that remains on course to enact a leadership transition of its own before that election — to outgoing London mayor Boris Johnson, or perhaps to Home Secretary Theresa May or Chancellor George Osborne — the allure of successful back-to-back Prime Ministerships seems well within grasp.

But complacency and hubris comes at a cost; they are arguably the forces that undid Margaret Thatcher in 1990; and their effects have engineered the defeat of better governments than Cameron’s all over the world, and seen to it that even the most securely seated of administrations can be turfed out if voters are of a mood to punish arrogance: a good local example is what happened to Jeff Kennett in Victoria in 1999.

Still, today is Corbyn’s moment of triumph, for what it is worth, and the fallout is likely to quickly prove that a moment is all he will be spared as his party now proceeds to disintegrate around him.

The final word goes to a Labour staffer who, on resigning once Corbyn’s election was certain, remarked that “I’m fucked, you’re fucked, we’re all fucked.”

Quite.

For anyone in Westminster and for those who watch from near and from afar, interesting times ahead in British politics ahead are guaranteed.

UK: Narrow Tory Win A Victory For Common Sense And Right

DAVID CAMERON defied polls, pundits, and the predictions of many — including, to a slight degree, myself — to pull off a clear but narrow outright victory in Thursday’s British election; the result is a reward for five years of sound stewardship and represents the logical outcome of good governance but poses risks for the Tories: even so, the Left has been divided, the Liberal Democrats annihilated, and Tories must be favoured to win again in 2020.

I had intended to posit on the excellent outcome of Thursday’s election in the UK on Friday night, Melbourne time, but time — as readers know too well — has been in short supply of late; this is a situation that will continue for the foreseeable future, and with other issues backing up and more (like the budget) looming, we’ll talk briefly on this tonight and keep moving.

But as was the case recently in New Zealand, the stunning majority win by Britain’s Conservative Party has provided proof — were more required — that enough voters in enough seats are open to embracing a reasonably authentic conservative agenda of smaller government, lower taxes, incentives for families and business, strong national defences, and limited and far more tightly targeted welfare programs that serve as a genuine safety net and not as some divine right of entitlement: and, when coupled with economic growth (in Britain’s case, the fastest of any developed economy, including Australia’s) all of this adds up to a powerful case for election provided that case is adequately and competently made and prosecuted.

In this sense, the Tory win in the UK carries lessons for conservatives in the US, Canada, and especially here in Australia, as a hapless and trouble-prone Liberal government prepares to deliver a make-or-break second budget next week (to remedy the politically apocalyptic mess it made of its first) and which approaches the two-third waypoint of its first term with re-election far from a certainty.

I must confess that I thought a majority was beyond the reach of the Conservative Party; not just on account of the closeness of the polls, or the relatively low share of the vote they projected for the Tories, but because — on an orthodox reading of the British political landscape — the Conservatives simply didn’t seem able to establish the sort of simple plurality over Labour required to come in with half the seats.

I thought the Tories would win about 290 seats with a floor at the 280 mark, and with the possibility of a “surge” that might get them close at 310-315 seats, but not quite close enough.

But this was no orthodox election in the UK, as we’ll see shortly, and whilst I note the outraged blather emanating from the Greens, UKIP (and to a lesser extent Labour and the Liberal Democrats) over the Tories winning a majority on 37.1% of the votes cast, I also note there was no such outrage emanating from any of those quarters in 2005 when Labour under Tony Blair scored a 66-seat majority on 36% (and the Tories finishing that election on 32% — almost two points better than Labour managed this time — with 35 seats fewer than Labour won on Thursday).

So first things first: the outraged hypocrisy of the also-rans should be ignored; it is typical of the Greens especially that having won fewer than one vote in 25 cast they nonetheless now bang the table demanding seats in Parliament as a reward for the pathetic and unattractive platform offered to and rejected by the overwhelming majority of British electors.

The Tory Party has finished with 331 seats (+25 from 2010) to 232 for Labour (-26), 8 (-49) for the Lib-Dems, 56 (+50) for the Scottish Nationalist Party, and 23 “Others” (including one for the United Kingdom Independence Party): it adds up to a slim but serviceable majority of 12 for the Conservatives over all other parties, and in the circumstances is a triumph.

The simple truth of a first past the post electoral system is that whoever puts together the most votes in a given constituency wins that seat — which is how it should be — and in the UK, any change to that arrangement was emphatically rejected at a referendum just a few years ago. Britons voted decisively against an Australian-style preferential voting system, and that was absolutely the correct result, and here in Australia any attempt to move away from preferential voting and back toward the FPTP system the system was created with in the first place should be welcomed, encouraged, and implemented as quickly as it can be legislated.

But for all of that, Conservatives now face a further five years in office, barring defections, by-election losses or a split in the Tory Party bringing David Cameron’s government down; it is important to note however that whilst the result of the election was clear, it was by no means a landslide or otherwise a thumping win, and this reality should stay very much top of mind as the Tories go about the business of their second term in office.

To illustrate the point, I note the win on Thursday was weaker (in both seats won, the resulting majority, and the proportion of the vote secured) than all four election wins achieved by the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, including the surprise come-from-behind victory recorded by Major in April 1992.

Even so, Cameron is now able to get on with the business of implementing Conservative policies in full control of the House of Commons, and unencumbered by the retarding influence of the Lib-Dem partners whose party has now been comprehensively trounced and virtually wiped out.

There are a lot of lessons here for the Abbott government, which has laboured under the dead weight of poor advice and strategic and tactical ineptitude, to say nothing of the morally criminal antics of a bitterly hostile Senate; Australia’s Liberals might not be able to do anything about the state of the Senate without an election, but Cameron’s Tories have at least demonstrated there is a way to build sufficient public support to carry an electoral mandate when the opportunity eventuates.

In many respects, the Cameroon agenda is little different to that of the Liberal Party here: structural repair of a gaping budget deficit, starting work on repaying state sector debt that in Britain ballooned to £1.5tn under Labour; tightening and restricting welfare payments to the genuinely disadvantaged, and capping the amount of benefits paid per household; cutting taxes on personal and business incomes; providing incentives for enterprise, home ownership and working families; securing Britain’s defences through the renewal of the Trident nuclear missile deterrent; and so forth.

It’s an agenda that has seen Britain — unique among a sea of basket cases and stagnant neighbours in Europe — begin to boom; and it’s an agenda that has been astutely packaged, explained and sold by a slick and brutally effective Tory communications unit that makes anything Australia’s Liberals are currently capable of appear pedestrian at best by comparison.

Unlike the Liberal Party, the Conservatives have been merciless (some might say ruthless) in exposing the dangers of a return to office by their Labour opponents’ a telling example lies in the fact the shadow Chancellor (read: shadow Treasurer) Ed Balls was coerced into suggesting the British government did not spend enough money during its last period of government between 1997 and 2010; the Tories leapt on this gleefully in the final weeks of the election campaign — pointing at the horrific national debt pile and a budget deficit running at more than £100bn when they took office — and crucified Balls and Labour over such a ridiculous (and dangerous) official position.

Balls was one of the Labour MPs who lost his seat on Saturday. It is difficult to imagine the Liberals’ present line-up engineering such a viciously effective strike on the Shorten-led ALP.

Much credit must be given to Lynton Crosby — the Australian political strategist who emerged from the Liberal Party in the 1990s, who steered the Tory election effort — for despite Thursday’s triumph, the plain fact is that for much of its first term in office, Cameron’s government looked imperilled (to say the least) ahead of its next date with the British public at the ballot box.

It is Crosby who deserves full credit for getting the Tories focused, on message, and disciplined enough to stick to a plan, and anyone who doubts Crosby’s abilities ought to sit up and take notice.

I wrote in this column last week that if the Conservatives won — faced with bad polls (that proved wrong) and confronted by a difficult election — then Crosby would be entitled to be regarded as one of the best political strategists, anywhere, ever: and so it has come to pass. He deserves the kudos he is now rightly being given. And in the way such matters are managed in Britain, talk that his efforts merit a knighthood express a sentiment with which I have no objection whatsoever.

The one blot on an otherwise excellent result is Scotland, where 56 of 59 seats were won by the Scottish Nationalist Party; I tend to think that if Cameron proceeds to govern as a “One Nation” Conservative — a term carrying a rather different meaning than it does in Australia — then the SNP, when its MPs front up for re-election in five years’ time able to boast of achieving next to nothing, this aberration will begin to fade away as sharply as it has appeared now.

The SNP’s only real objectives were to block a Tory government at any cost, and to use the balance of power (if it secured it) to manipulate a Labour government into helping engineer the dissolution of the United Kingdom.

As a third generation descendant from two Scottish families I have no interest in, or time for, either the SNP or their “visions” of “independence:” having followed the referendum campaign last year and witnessed the blatant lies passed off by the SNP as a “case” for independence, I find it incomprehensible anyone would trust an SNP MP or candidate, much less believe anything they had to say.

The SNP might hate the Conservative Party — good for it — but it also hates the English, and when an outfit like the SNP that masquerades as a sober and responsible voice for its people advocates for outcomes that would plunge an independent Scotland into economic depression, it should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves: and Cameron, and his Tories, find a big opportunity to rebuild their party’s stocks in the North by exposing the SNP for what it is, and by delivering for all constituent countries in the Union as they have promised to do.

For as long as it continues to load, post-election, readers can glean an idea of the extent of the movement recorded on Thursday from the interactive graph and tables published with the UK edition of The Guardian online; the stark extent of the SNP’s domination in Scotland — taking 56 of the 59 seats there — is obvious, whilst readers will see that in the southern third of the UK, the Lib-Dems have been reduced to a single seat (Carshalton and Wallington on London’s southern outskirts) and in their traditional strongholds in Devon and Cornwall have been obliterated.

Labour has been reduced, effectively, to seats around traditional coal mining areas it has dominated since capturing them from the old Liberal Party in the early 1900s, plus mostly less well-to-do parts of London; it is difficult to see how the party can come back in any less than two additional terms, for this is the third consecutive election at which the Tories have strengthened their position in England, and Labour’s Scottish bedrock has been reduced to a single seat.

That task will become harder after 2018, when new boundaries cutting 50 MPs from the House of Commons and introducing equal-sized constituencies — slashing Scotland’s over-bloated representation relative to the other component countries in the UK — take effect.

But for all the Labor blather of “gerrymander” that was intermittently heard early in the last term of Parliament, I challenge anyone to justify why places like Scotland should be shown the kind of heavy weightage that now stands to be abolished: and in the ultimate irony, whilst the SNP probably would have swept Scotland irrespective of the boundaries that applied this time around, the redistributed boundaries that would have applied to this election (until they were deferred, at least in part on account of Labour opposition) would have made Labour’s path to a majority that little bit easier after the shellacking it copped this week.

For the Lib-Dems, it’s hard to conclude the party is anything other than all but over; reduced to just 8 seats (from 650), they have recorded the lowest haul of Lib-Dem seats in the 30-odd years since they were founded, and the lowest haul of seats in the name of the old Liberal Party in many decades.

I think there’s an opportunity there, if they want to take it: to seize the mantle of Britain’s pre-eminent social democratic party, developing mainstream policies of the Centre-Left with broad appeal to the British middle class, workers, intellectuals and minorities, and set about reversing the political execution inflicted on the old Liberal Party 100 years ago by the emergence of the Labour Party, the Liberals’ inability to respond or react, and the split in their party that occurred in the aftermath of the first world war.

The opportunity is there if they want to take it, and to build on the lessons from their recent stint sharing government to “mainstream-ise” their centrist-slightly leftist party.

But they won’t. The Lib-Dems will retreat to their preferred mode of eternal opposition and carping.

UKIP will probably wither on the vine if Cameron delivers both the renegotiation of relations with Europe he has promised and the so-called in-out referendum to follow it; should both Tory initiatives materialise, the primary purpose of UKIP will have ceased to exist: this election was UKIP’s one shot in the locker to transform a party of protest and wins in lesser forums into success where it actually matters — Westminster. It didn’t. Its leader failed to win a well-chosen Tory seat and it returned a single MP.

UKIP will blather about proportional representation, but all such an electoral system would do now is to reward losers whose support is drawn from the fringes only. Its time has gone.

As for the Greens, with their pathetic 3.6% of the vote, who gives a shit.

In the end, however, the British election has provided a win for common sense, good governance, a bustling, growing Britain, and for what is right.

I wish to personally extend my congratulations to the team at CCHQ on a job well done, as well as to all the footsoldiers for Conservatism whose ranks I do hope at some point to join, and acknowledge again the brilliant leadership of Lynton Crosby in achieving the desired result. We’ll come back to Lynton in a minute.

But if the Conservatives avoid divisive splits, continue to focus on the long-term objectives that have shaped the Coalition administration they headed for five years, and continue to notch up the kind of results in Britain that are increasingly the envy of the rest of the free world, there is no reason to think they cannot triumph again in five years’ time (or whenever an election might occur in the interim).

In a final word on Lynton Crosby, it is reassuring to note the Liberal Party has finally (and belatedly) re-engaged his firm, Crosby Textor, to advise in the lead-up to next year’s election, after a ridiculous period in the wilderness at the apparent behest of elements in and/or close to the Prime Minister’s Office.

One hopes it isn’t too late for it to make the required degree of difference to the Liberals’ prospects.

But if I were Bill Shorten or, more to the point, any of the number of faceless, brainless, cardboard cut-out henchmen populating the backroom of the ALP, the prospect of Lynton Crosby running my opponent’s election campaign would send a little thrill of terror down my spine.

Once and for all, Lynton Crosby has proven that even the most difficult of circumstances in seemingly irretrievable situations are not beyond his capabilities to turn around.

There are 232 excruciatingly sore backsides left on the British Labour benches that now comprehend all too well precisely the kind of carnage Crosby, the master strategist and tactician, is capable of inflicting on his enemies.

Australian Labor should be afraid. Happily, by the time the ALP comprehends that Crosby has stepped into the ring, it will probably be too late to run, or to hide.

UK: Election Anyone’s Guess, But Cameron Likeliest PM

VOTING IS UNDERWAY tonight (Melbourne time) in the closest, least predictable election in the United Kingdom since 1974; deadlocked polls and a near-certain hung Parliament belie the fact this election actually matters, with the future of the Union hanging on the result despite a recent failed referendum on Scottish independence. It is likely David Cameron will remain Prime Minister, but in what shape — and at what cost — remains to be seen.

I must apologise most profusely to those readers based in Australia who have been waiting for some kind of snapshot of what’s happening in the UK; rest assured that today’s General Election — like British politics generally, which is a passion — is one I have watched unfold intimately, over both the campaign period and the months that preceded it, and whilst I haven’t published on the topic at all I’m across the lay of the land: and frustrated and worried by it at that.

It has been one of those unfortunate coincidences that the campaign has coincided with a period of extreme activity as a “media type” away from this column, and as readers know, there has been a dearth of articles altogether instead of the five to six I try to publish as a weekly minimum, and even then too much time has been taken up on outrages like Belle Gibson and the obscene deification of the executed drug smuggling scum that was Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Yet in some respects, it wouldn’t have mattered a great deal whether we spoke about today’s British election this week, last month or even last year; the trends picked up in the country’s reputable opinion polls have been maddeningly consistent for almost a year: narrow Labour lead, narrow Conservative lead, tie. Repeat. Ad infinitum it seems. And after five weeks of “official” campaigning, Britons are going to the polls today in what in many respects presents as a dead heat.

I’m not going to post any links tonight — you will just have to trust me as I write off the cuff — for I would rather present a shorter digest quickly than take until midnight on a more detailed effort that most Australian readers won’t see before breakfast, when the polling stations close and the results begin to come in.

But in a “poll of polls” — an aggregated reading of the likes of YouGov, ICM, Opinium, Populus, Ipsos Mori, ComRes, and Lord Ashcroft’s independent research — it appears David Cameron’s Conservative Party is set to win 34-35% of the vote, and Labour — led by Ed Miliband — 33-34%; the final round of polls published over the past 48 hours all show either a tie between the two major parties or a slender Tory lead of 1-2%, and none suggest Labour is ahead.

But it isn’t quite so simple, with the separatist Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) apparently on track to win 50% of the vote in Scotland and with it, as many as all of the 59 Scottish seats in the House of Commons under the UK’s first past the post electoral system, up from six of them five years ago; such a gain — at Labour’s almost exclusive expense, defending as that party is 40 seats there coming into today’s election — would rob Labour of any prospect of an outright win across Britain, and would force it into some kind of arrangement with the SNP to govern if it can win enough seats in England and Wales to get it mathematically close enough to assemble a majority coalition.

On the other hand, the main reason David Cameron isn’t cruising to a thumping victory today lies the shape of UKIP — the United Kingdom Independence Party — with its anti-immigration, anti-EU message that appeals to many Britons fed up with government by decree from the continent and resentful of the hundreds of thousands of Eastern European immigrants the UK has been obliged to accept as the EU has expanded eastwards in the past decade, and waves of newcomers enjoy an entitlement the British government has no control or veto over.

These immigrants arrive with entitlements to jobs and welfare at the expense of the British taxpayer, which is hardly conducive to them finding a rousing reception awaiting them.

But Cameron has been reluctant to fashion hardline policies around the EU, immigration, and the ancillary issues associated with them; his failure to do so five years ago is widely regarded as the reason the Tories did not win a majority at that time.

Now, with polls almost unanimously finding UKIP set to snare 12% of the vote across Britain today (at least two-thirds of which has been lifted directly from the Conservative base), it’s not difficult to see where Cameron’s “majority” has gone this time around.

Now, however, the miscalculation (and that is what it is) could cost the Conservative Party government altogether.

UKIP, in the past week, seems to have recognised the danger, albeit too late; the tepid Cameron stand of “renegotiating” Britain’s membership of the EU, followed by a so-called “in-out referendum” in 2017, is preferable to its adherents than the stolidly pro-Europe attitudes of Labour, the Lib-Dems, and the SNP for that matter: and recognising that its votes may help defeat Tory MPs in marginal constituencies, UKIP has been recommending “tactical voting” for the Conservatives in seats it stands no chance of winning itself. Whether this is enough to make any difference remains to be seen.

Complicating matters is the Liberal Democrats, who are defending 57 seats (from 2010) today, and who stand to lose roughly half of them to Labour and the Conservatives in fairly equal measure; the Lib-Dems complete five years in coalition with the Tories with their poll numbers running at about 10% — also virtually halved — and no obvious expression of their preferred post-election Coalition partner if the Parliament, once again, is hung.

Their leader, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, is at grave risk of losing his seat in Sheffield to Labour, just as senior Lib-Dem Treasury minister (and heir apparent to Clegg) Danny Alexander is exposed to the gathering SNP avalanche in Scotland. Tactical voting by Tory voters might save either, or both. Then again, it may not.

But if ever there was an opportunity for a last-minute circuit breaker for the Conservative Party to turn the election in its favour, it came on Monday, when Labour staged an election rally at which participants were segregated by gender in an apparent sop to the Muslim community; the incident rightly provoked a storm of fury on Twitter (and if anyone wants to know what I was doing on Monday night, it involved talking to a lot of angry Tories online on Twitter).

LABOUR’S DISGUSTING ELECTION STUNT…to curry favour with Muslims, the Tories’ failure to crucify the Opposition over such an appalling piece of token appeasement risks driving even more Conservative voters to UKIP. (Picture: The Express)

 

Yet how much — if any — effort to capitalise on such a disgusting and tokenistic appeasement of one minority community was made by the Conservatives is unclear.

And Labour has rightly attracted ridicule on account of the so-called “Milistone” it saw fit to place around its neck at the weekend, with leader “Red” Ed Miliband announcing a short list of vague, vacuous and populist pledges would be cast in stone and a monument erected in the gardens of 10 Downing Street “to remind (Miliband) of his pledge to the British people every time he looks out the window.”

It sounds like the sort of crap Bill Shorten would come up with, and should accordingly be dismissed with contempt.

I could run through dozens of variables, scenarios, and potential outcomes (and we’ll come to the outcomes in a second) but it’s safe to say that the one of the two issues that could win the Tories votes — Immigration and Europe — has not been adequately exploited, whilst the other — Britain’s booming, growing economy — appears to be carrying little weight with undecided voters.

And that, frankly, ought to terrify Conservative head office: as its social media boffins have been proclaiming as loudly and as widely as they can, Britain’s economy is growing faster and more strongly than that of any developed nation in the world — including Australia’s. Yet faced by basket cases and carnage to varying degrees across the Channel, this stunning achievement seems to be a political re-run of the country’s booming mid-late 1990s, which ushered in unprecedented prosperity across the board but failed to save Tory Prime Minister John Major from a smashing defeat at the hands of Blair Labour.

This election is likely to prove one thing, however: Australian political strategist and former Liberal Party director Lynton Crosby months ago assumed control of the Conservatives’ central office, and this campaign has been very much executed in strict accordance with his advice and directions; if Cameron and the Tories somehow prevail — especially in securing a surprise majority, or something close to it — the result will more or less immortalise Crosby as one of the best political strategists in the world, anywhere, ever.

Lose, however — especially if badly, and if the Tories fall steeply short of the 280 or so seats pundits concur they are likely to win — and the result, whilst sweeping Cameron from office, will also probably put one hell of a dent in Crosby’s reputation as a strategist: especially in tight and difficult elections where the result hangs in the balance.

I don’t think it will come to that, however.

Polls close in Britain at 7am, our time (10pm, GMT) and the results will start to follow shortly afterwards; in the 650-seat House of Commons — in which four Sinn Fein MPs from Northern Ireland routinely and flatly refuse to take their seats, and a fifth electorate (occupied by the Speaker) is uncontested — 323 seats are required to secure an outright majority.

If the Tories (who will win seats from the Lib-Dems, particularly in south-west England, whilst losing seats to Labour) can contain these losses to about 20-25 seats, emerging with 280+ — and the Lib-Dems can both record 30-ish seats and opt to remain in Coalition with the Tories through a second term — then that, along with support from 8 or 9 Democratic Unionists from Northern Ireland who would never put Labour into power, ought to be enough for Cameron to continue as Prime Minister in at least the short term.

I don’t rule out a surge for the Conservatives, as (especially) UKIP-inclined voters switch back to the Tories in the confines of the ballot box at the last minute: and similarly, the carnage the SNP seems certain to inflict on Labour in Scotland could see the Conservatives pick up three or four seats by virtual default, as their vote count simply proves adequate atop decimated Labour tallies that remain too high for the SNP to hurdle.

(The Scottish Tory scenario is a remote one, however).

Of course, Labour could be the recipient of a huge swing in England and Wales that puts government beyond reach of the Conservatives under any permutation, or even win a majority: I doubt this will happen, and if Labour loses, I would be surprised if Miliband survives as leader beyond the end of the year.

Assuming, of course, that 2015 — like 1974 and 1910 before it — doesn’t shape as a year in which a second general election quickly follows the first.

I think the likeliest outcome is a Cameron win off the back of a messy Coalition with the Lib-Dems, the DUP, and possibly someone (or two) from UKIP, and whilst I might be wrong, I think this far more probable than either a Tory majority or any kind of win featuring Labour.

Indeed, should Labour take office in any kind of accommodation with the SNP, it would likely see a second referendum on Scottish independence, perhaps as soon as late this year: and the belligerent, bellicose monster from Scotland that is no laughing matter runs the very real risk of engineering the break-up of the United Kingdom if fed on the real power that derives from Westminster.

And should Labour take office at all, it is more or less pledged to resume the same tax-and-spend approach that proved ruinous under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and left the UK with £1.5tn in public sector debt (about 80% of GDP) and a gaping structural budget deficit — both problems the Conservatives have only just been able to bring under control, and start to repair.

On any analysis, this election is far from meaningless.

But even if Cameron survives — as I expect him to — it isn’t likely to be in any kind of robust shape; another election and the fraught pursuit of an outright majority will prove exponentially trickier if thrust upon the Tory Party later this year, but such are the potential costs of a lacklustre election campaign that has failed to hit the right notes — when a landslide win, on any impartial measure, was always well within its grasp to achieve.

 

Abortion Of Justice: Touted NZ Rape Laws Truly Evil

A DISGUSTING PROPOSAL for “reform” emerged from New Zealand’s Labour Party this week, with a suggestion the onus of proof in rape cases shift from the prosecution to the defence; were this outrage to become law (or, God forbid, adopted in Australia or elsewhere in the free world) almost every man would spend a lifetime looking over his shoulder. Any woman who supports this measure should be ashamed, and NZ Labour should be crucified.

One issue that came up during the week — attracting little fanfare in Australia, buried as it was beneath the orgy of destructive antics being played out in the Senate, and Clive Palmer’s ongoing apparent crusade to destroy the government — is a proposal by NZ Labor to overhaul that country’s rape laws to place the burden of proving consent from the prosecution to the defence in criminal trials.

I have been eager to post on the subject because I think the change (if ever enacted) will be one of the most retrograde and abused actions in modern legal history, and because this sounds like just the thing the chardonnay drunks and bleeding heart bullshit artists in Australia would rush to champion if their cue to do so is received from fellow travellers in a land not all that far away.

There are a couple of reports I have read in the past few days (you can access them here and here) that will send alarm bells ringing inside the heads of just about every man who has had more than one sexual partner in his lifetime, as well as sounding the alarm for anyone with a shred of decency to their credit — both male and female alike — who recognise that irrespective of the heinous nature of rape as a crime and the vicious after-effects its victims endure for the rest of their lives, this is not the way to do things.

No rational, principled person denies the gravity of rape or the impact it can have on those who are victims of it; it is a sad mark of the times that most people know someone who has endured a violent sexual attack (I know a few) and I suspect many of us are also aware of rape cases that either did not make it to a courtroom for whatever reason — frightened victim, lack of evidence, and so on — or resulted in the acquittal of the offender, even if that outcome was the result of a legal technicality not mutually exclusive to the guilt of the alleged miscreant.

I rate the crime of rape, and especially in instances where it is accompanied by additional horrific violence, as worse in some respects than murder; after all, killing someone is final. Someone who has been raped has to live with the psychological scars long after the physical ones have healed, to say nothing of the multitude of additional potential consequences such as pregnancy, sterility and disease that the original offence may bequeath to its victim as well.

For clarity, I note the offence of rape is recognised as a crime against both women and men nowadays, and the material I have seen thus far emanating from New Zealand is strictly gender-neutral in its discussion of complainants and defendants.

Yet in practical terms, this proposal — should it ever see the statute books — will achieve its greatest impact not in rising conviction rates, or increased number of people making legitimate complaints of being raped, but in a flood of men being hauled before Courts to answer “rape” charges that have no basis in fact.

Here in Australia — as in New Zealand, and in other liberal democratic countries across the world — we are privileged to enjoy lifestyles that afford great personal freedom and liberty, subject to the rule of law; with that freedom comes choices, and with those choices comes personal responsibility, and the liability for the consequences of breaking the law in making them.

Without putting too fine a point on things, one of the freedoms this encompasses is sexual freedom: the right, subject to issues of consent and age, to engage in sexual relations with whomever (and in whatever number) we wish to; obviously people will have their own standards and taboos in such matters which I don’t propose to dwell on here. Law and morality are not the same thing.

The fellow who goes out to clubs every Saturday night for years on end bedding different women each week might be accused by some as leading a shallow existence, but provided it’s consensual, he isn’t breaking any laws; the husband who walks out of a marriage and straight into the arms of another woman might leave behind a very angry jilted wife, but whilst a divorce might ensue, subject to the same caveats, there probably aren’t any laws being broken by that man either.

Yet these two hypothetical individuals — and I’ve made them male, because the sheer weight of numbers dictates that these changes will overwhelmingly target heterosexual men — would seem prime candidates for someone to scream “rape!” at them falsely, in retribution and in fury, to settle what the woman making the allegations perceives as a grievous wrong. I should emphasise that gay men also fit the bill when it comes to having false accusations levelled against them, but whilst I suppose it’s possible, I don’t think too many men are going to head off to Police to accuse their wives and girlfriends of raping them.

The changes apparently being considered by Labour, if it wins the looming general election in New Zealand, would rest upon the prosecution in a rape case establishing that a sexual encounter had occurred, and established the identity of the alleged offender — both as per standard practice today.

However, having done so, the burden of proof would switch to the defendant, who would have to satisfy a test of reasonable doubt that consent had been obtained.

The guy with dozens — perhaps hundreds — of historical sexual partners would forever wonder whether any of them, or which of them specifically, might make a complaint to Police perhaps decades after a consensual encounter, the details of which would be likely to be hazy on both sides the longer the period elapsed before the complainant did so.

The guy who walked out on his wife would also forever wonder if, and when, his day in Court to face charges based on nothing more than malicious vindictiveness might arrive.

But more broadly, the kind of societies we live in — with people marrying later, sometimes more than once, and with most people “playing the field” and “trying before they buy” at all — means that there are more people with multiple lifetime sexual partners now than there ever has been.

It doesn’t have to be a bedpost with scores of notches on it; anything more than a single sexual partner is enough. And if this change is legislated in New Zealand, the men of that country will be sentenced to a lifetime of the worst kind of wondering, as the unknown and uncertain ramifications of the law take months or years or decades to become apparent. If they do at all.

This change, clearly intended to primarily benefit women who have suffered sexual attack, would in my view have a deleterious effect on those who are actual victims of rape (as opposed to malicious, frivolous complainants): this law would add an extra stigma to making a complaint against an alleged rapist, in that the victim would face the additional public shame of potentially being branded as  a troublemaker, or someone who thought better of their escapades and later changed their mind, or…something.

Whichever way you cut it, making men prove they aren’t rapists isn’t going to achieve anything constructive.

If, as the reports I have seen suggest, the objective is to encourage women who’ve been raped to come forward in greater numbers than they do, and to increase the conviction rate where rapes are alleged to have occurred, a more sensible approach would be to provide additional resources and support for victims of sexual assault, and work to improve existing laws to eliminate the technicalities and vagaries that allow sex offenders to escape conviction and punishment.

But casting a lifelong shadow over virtually all men, for no better reason than they have exercised their freedom to be sexually active — burdening the overwhelming majority who at all times behave legally to get at the minority who are human filth — is not the way to go.

At the end of the day, people should be presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.

I think any woman who finds this proposal agreeable ought to be ashamed; certainly, more needs to be done for the victims of sexual violence wherever it occurs. But the Labour initiative isn’t actually a question of women’s rights; it is a question of law, and represents a change that will adversely affect up to 50% of the population. No decent woman can justify any discernible gender benefit when it comes at such a price.

And make no mistake, if the change is ever implemented in New Zealand, it will find its way here, and to God only knows where else after that.

The trendies and the compassion babblers might find the Labour proposal humane, decent, and just — which merely shows how distorted the sense of reality of such people really is.

The suggestion that people can be accused of rape and then be forced to prove there was consent is truly frightening, and far from improving our societies, it would grievously compromise the integrity of the social fabric in any country whose government was sufficiently doctrinally obsessed to ever legislate it.

This dumb idea is a good reason why the voters of New Zealand ought to savage Labour when they go to the polls later this year, and for once I don’t simply say that wearing my hat as a conservative; if this is NZ Labour’s idea of the kind of society it envisages New Zealand evolving into, then the last thing the country needs is a Labour government running it.

 

Socialist Stalwart Tony Benn Dies In London, Aged 88

ONE OF THE GENTLEMAN of the Left has died this evening, Melbourne time; Tony Benn — a stalwart of the hard Left of Britain’s Labour Party, and a rank socialist to boot — has passed on after a short illness, aged 88. In life, he drew respect from across the political spectrum for the forthright nature of his views; he was an opponent with whom conservatives differed vehemently, but was nonetheless well liked. Above all, he was a character.

Whilst I detested his politics and despised most of his world view, I have always — always — liked Tony Benn enormously.

Whilst I’m not going to write at great length upon his death this evening, I nonetheless wanted to at least say a few words to mark the passing of one of the real characters (and true gentlemen) of politics; Benn was never going to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but he does deserve credit for the influence his ideas exerted on Labour policy in Britain and, indirectly, across the world.

An ardent advocate for the abolition of the monarchy and republicanism in Britain for decades, Benn — who inherited a peerage when his father died — will perhaps be most instantly remembered for his anti-establishment and republican gestures, such as engineering two by-elections in two years in his seat in Parliament to enable him to renounce the peerage (this drawn-out adventure was necessary to ensure the procedures followed were legal), and later in the early 1990s with his “Commonwealth of Britain” bill which aimed to abolish the monarchy and transform Britain into a federal republic.

Benn’s lasting contributions on policy, however, were ones that failed to generate sensational headlines; a minister in the governments of Harold Wilson (both times) and Jim Callaghan, the reforms and ideas Benn pursued in areas such as industry policy, industrial relations, welfare reform and relations with Europe have proven durable, and still underpin to a great degree the platform of the Labour Party today.

Indeed — to put this into a local perspective — some of his views were eerily similar to those pursued by the Gillard government, with the caveat that at least Benn had some class about him even if his ideas, necessarily, did not.

And he was a vigorous and enthusiastic opponent of Margaret Thatcher for decades, although it goes without saying that Margaret clearly prevailed in their “battle of ideas.”

I have always liked Benn — despite his socialism, which is odious no matter the cloak it wears — because he could be funny, witty, and was an intensely interesting figure to listen to.

He also was able to articulate why he held the views he did, rather than simply marking out a position and deploying spin and/or abuse in its defence: a lesson some of his antipodean contemporaries would do well to emulate.

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the tributes pouring in from political opponents in the UK — my people — are heartfelt in their sincerity that on a personal level, he will be greatly missed.

A couple of articles from the coverage beginning to appear in the British press can be viewed here and here.

Not everyone who disagrees with you in politics is, viscerally, an enemy, even if their pursuit of ideas that you find repugnant is ruthless and relentless: in other words, as readers will have heard me say on numerous occasions, politicians are people too, and that human factor comes first when the battle over ideas is done.

Certainly Benn exemplifies this. For those not familiar with either Benn or his work, over six decades, I strongly recommend doing your homework.

Tony Benn was a class act. I wish him rest in peace.

 

Faraway View: What The Brits Think Of Tony Abbott

PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott’s thumping election win has drawn attention from across the world; blessed as we are to share many similarities with the UK, it is interesting to note the reaction his triumph has elicited in those splendid Isles. In truth, British opinion on the matter may surprise.

I’ve been sent a link to an article from the Daily Mail; I have decided to share it with readers today and make a few brief comments on it, but I do urge everyone to check it out in its entirety for themselves.

The thing I most wish to point out here is the contrast the Mail‘s article draws between Abbott’s leadership style and that of the British Prime Minister (and leader of the Conservative Party), David Cameron.

As everyone in Australia knows, Abbott has resolutely — some would contend, obstinately — stuck to his guns for years with a low tax/small government message, with its emphasis on national security and welfare targeted only to the neediest, and characterised by Abbott’s own brand of populist nationalism fused with a promise of individual opportunity.

In turn, of course — and stripped of all rhetoric — this is, almost to the textbook, a classic New Right prescription of modern conservative government: exactly the frame on which the successful administrations of heavyweight conservatives such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl were built.

And make no mistake: the platform on which Abbott has been elected represents a stiff dose of orthodox Tory politics.

The point of the piece — simply stated — is that you don’t win elections by promising to be all things to all people: credibility tends to be a casualty of that kind of political conduct.

And its target, British PM Cameron, is rightly left looking less than credible.

I was, in its early stages, a staunch supporter of both Cameron’s leadership and of the “modernisation” project he initiated to restore the Conservative Party to electability.

For too long — under 13 years of Labour government — the Tories in Britain had comprehensively lost the political debate to their opponents, and this extended right down to the way the respective parties were packaged.

“New Labour” under Tony Blair was cool; so cool, in fact, that a crass piece of John McTernan-inspired spin even branded the UK itself with a “Cool Britannia” moniker.

The question of administrative competence was an afterthought, so long as Labour was perceived to be chic and hip: a parallel that will not be lost on Australian readers who have endured six years of Labor governance and the cretinous phenomenon that is Kevin Rudd.

The Conservatives, by contrast, were simply “the nasty party” — a positioning the Tories were thoroughly inept in their attempts to destroy, and which became etched in the British political psyche as a consequence.

Such perceptions, by their nature, are difficult to dislodge at the best of times.

But Cameron didn’t simply seek to update Conservative policy to reflect contemporary circumstances; he went further, effectively removing the key differences between the Conservative Party and those who opposed it.

As a result, the British government presents confused positions on such issues as ongoing membership of the EU and the question of Scottish independence; its mooted crackdown on crime and anti-social behaviour was watered down; an opportunity to institute sweeping and rigorous prudential and regulatory reforms of the British financial sector was squandered; and the half-baked position that austerity to curb public spending (whilst external borrowings continued to rocket) has trapped Cameron in a political limbo from which only the ineptitude of his Labour opponent might save him.

Most tellingly, cross-border immigration — consistently identified during Britain’s election campaign in 2010 as being of the most concern to British voters — received little more than lip service to avoid offending minority communities in the UK, and that in turn, arguably, was the miscalculation that cost the Tories a majority and forced them into coalition with the Liberal Democrats — a millstone if ever there was one.

These are criticisms that can never be validly made of Abbott; like him or not, there is no doubt what he and his government intend to do with their new-found political mandate.

Rather than disown the Liberal Party’s political heritage, Abbott has made it a virtue — something the Conservatives have been too timid for too long in embracing the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and deploying it to their ongoing advantage.

And the thing about pretending to be all things to all people is, of course, that you end up pleasing no-one: the very situation in which Cameron finds himself 18 months or so out from the next scheduled election in Britain.

It’s flattering, of course, that elements in the UK would like to adopt Abbott; I think we’re lucky to have him here, and so regrettably enough the British will have to find their own answer to the Cameron problem.

For mine, the Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, seems an obvious candidate, although there are questions over how he might perform as Prime Minister and over his past (to say nothing of the small matter of not currently being an MP at Westminster).

But the man Cameron beat to the Tory leadership in 2005, David Davis, could and would have represented a better bet (especially with the benefits of hindsight) for both the Conservative Party and as a leader of the UK itself.

Cameron, in the end, failed to win a parliamentary majority at the end of 13 years of ultimately incompetent Labour rule and at an “unloseable” election. Enough said.

It is no wonder, therefore, that this article is representative of the sentiment showing up in the press across the UK at present.