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Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
"Manchmal werden Leute den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen."

Friday, 6 May 2011

019 - Three themes from the 2011 local elections

Election results from yesterday's local polls are still continuing to be counted and confirmed across the country, however a number of themes appear to be emerging about the picture of modern politics. That is to say, the themes resulting from votes of those who participated in the elections, with turnout figures still disappointingly low. With results from 471 wards declared, the BBC is projecting that Labour will have a total share of the vote of 37%, the Conservatives 35% and the Lib Dems 15%.


1. Liberal Democrat losses

Lib Dem losses have been evidenced across the country as the party has lost seats to both Labour and its coalition partners. This includes a number of key constituencies, the holding of which has been of some sense of pride for Lib Dem candidates in recent times, no more so than in the Deputy Prime Minister's home city of Sheffield where the party lost out to a Labour candidate. High profile losses also include Hull which is now under Labour control, and Stockport and Bristol in which no party has been able to grasp a majority.

Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron is reported by the BBC as saying the contests were effectively "the first Lib Dem mid terms for 80 years", mid terms over which party leader Nick Clegg trudged somewhat of an embattled and dejected figure, admitting the party had taken 'big knocks' and voicing the need for the Liberal Democrats to 'dust themselves down and move on'. This comes as suggestions filter through the political atmosphere that last night's performance may have been the worst since the formation of the party in the 1980s, and some members including Gary Long - ousted member for Nottingham City council - cause minor rumblings over Clegg's future.


"We need to get up, dust ourselves down, and move on." (Nick Clegg speaking at an interview this morning).


Whilst the natural reaction would be - and has been in the eyes of some major Labour figures - to suggest that such decreases in votes are a backlash reaction against the performance of the coalition since last May, it is important to note before applying such a generalised view that Conservative votes appear relatively static when compared to the results of the 2010 General Election. Therefore while the Liberal Democrats have taken the brunt of the backlash against coalition fiscal policy, their governments partners appear unscathed.

Probable Labour moves to interpret the results as being a judgment on the performance of the coalition therefore whilst not entirely untrue may not be truly reflective of the overall picture.

2. Labour make significant gains

Another story of the results appears to be that, as a result of the decline in the Liberal Democrat vote Labour have gained a significant number of seats, results over which party leaders appear - albeit reservedly - pleased with. In the north of England - a traditionally strong Labour area of the country - a large number of councils have fallen to Labour control: The Lib Dems have also lost 11 seats in Liverpool and 10 seats in Manchester, including Bury which was won by Labour by drawing straws after a tie in the Ramsbottom ward. Labour have so far gained 742 councillors, while the Liberal Democrats interestingly have lost 619, with fringe parties losing 185.

It would therefore appear that previous Liberal Democrat and fringe party support has turned in favour of the Labour party, though it is important to also respect the high likelihood of more intricate vote switches in such a politically volatile environment.

Yesterday's polls however are somewhat of a mixed picture, as although Labour have almost gained a majority in the Welsh Assembly, they also have lost out in large numbers to the SNP in Scotland, meaning it is therefore difficult to justify yesterday's elections as an overall victory for the opposition.

This surely must now be a message well received by Ed Miliband, as whilst the popularity of the Scottish Nationals increases so fades the hopes of re-election to Westminster of a Labour government, as Scotland has historically provided large swathes of Labour support. Should an unlikely independance for
Scotland come to fruition, this could spell worrying times for Labour's hopes of returning to Whitehall.

3. Conservatives hold ground

Another key theme to emerge from the local elections is that the Conservative party appears to have largely held position, gaining just 3 councils and gaining 48 councillors. That David Cameron's party has taken little impact from a rebellion against the coalition may reflect the current Conservative nature the majority of coalition politics, and further serves to embarrass their political partners the Liberal Democrats who appear to have taken the brunt of the losses.

However whilst their immediate mandate to govern appears largely unaffected by local election results, the future of the coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has appeared somewhat fragile of late.

Such fractions will not be helped by the fallouts from the AV referendum over which Lord Ashdown has accused the Conservatives of a 'breach of faith' regarding the issues of a referendum arguing that David Cameron had failed to effectively distance himself from the personal attacks on Clegg surrounding the 'No' campaign, also citing that the coalition agreement has been "lubricated by a large element of goodwill and trust. It is no longer."

Foreign Secretary William Hague however has insisted that coalition fractions over the conduct and result of the AV referendum will not blight the future of the agreement between the two parties. Whilst he cited that the results had been 'a good morning for the Conservative Party' he also appeared to attempt to make a point that both sides of the coalition would continue to operate as normal in attempt to dampen suggestions about the growing insecurities surrounding the agreement.

David Cameron has also in a seperate interview that the reasons behind the coalition are 'as strong as ever'. Labour leader Ed Miliband has disagreed however, claiming that poor results for the LibDems provide evidence that the general public do not support coalition politics in their current form, and that they have not only 'withdrawn their permission for Clegg to back Tory policies' but also that voters do not simply want a 'relaunch of the coalition'.

As for the referendum on the alternative vote we are unlikely to hear any concrete news on results until late Friday evening as counting is only set to begin at 1600BST. Exit polls suggest a turnout of 41.8%, with victory for the 'No' campaign by some considerable margin as after 28 of 440 counting areas have declared results may according to Proffessor John Curtice be 70% to 30% in favour of retaining FPTP.

- sandlefish -

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