A Slim Majority Means More Instability. Good News? No.
May 9, 2015
by Martin Odoni
I have noticed some left-leaning commentators putting a positive gloss on Thursday’s dismal General Election news, by arguing that David Cameron has ended up in a weaker position than he was in when the coalition with the Liberal Democrats was agreed five years ago. The coalition, having extracted some centrist concessions from the Conservatives, presented Cameron with a solid working majority of over seventy, whereas Thursday, while allowing him to form a single-party administration, has left him with a working majority of just twelve. This means that, even though there is no need for an actual coalition at present, the Government is arguably going to be even less stable. Just a few by-Elections and/or party defections could erode the majority out of existence.
While I get what these commentators are saying, I do not see this instability as particularly good news. In the coalition, the Liberal Democrats were to the left of the Tories. Not saying much, and in practise they applied precious little ‘drag-factor’ to the extremism of the Conservatives, but what pull they did provide drew the coalition in a leftwards direction.
With such a tiny majority this time, Cameron is going to be more vulnerable than ever to backbench rebellions among his own MPs, who will not be afraid to throw tantrums when they know that the Prime Minister will now be more heavily dependent on their support. The rebellions are most likely to come from the extremist fringe on the ‘UKIP-boundary’ of the party, simply because by definition that is where the blinkered fanatics will be. Thus the danger is that Cameron will feel compelled to pander to the wishes of the Euro-skeptic, anti-welfare, Christian-Imperialist ingredients of the Far-Right, while not having to listen to counter-balancing voices from a (comparatively) centrist coalition partner. The pull will therefore be to the right this time. So, at least early on, we are likely to endure an even more extreme and stubborn form of right-wing governance than we have had to for the last five years.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that, yes, there is every possibility of the new term drifting into a Hung Parliament again some time in the fairly near future, and then possibilities will open up. (Although even then, Cameron can probably look to the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland for more support, and the prospect of yet another UK Government at their beck-and-call is no more appealing than one dominated by the Tory Radical Right.) But until such a time as this happens, we are in for an ever-more-pointlessly harsh, unpleasant and cruel Government, pandering only to the greed of the wealthy, and ruling the poor and vulnerable with an even heavier rod of iron.