What they say

Stephen Archer is a speaker with great charisma. By using illustrations and personal experiences and not being afraid to share his own point of view of the current situation and who is to blame for it, he engages the whole audience, at the same time helping us all to understand the credit crunch a little better.

— Warwick Business School


UK 2015 Election – A surprise? It should not have been

On October 10th 2014 I made my one and only tweet predicting the outcome of the 2015 election 7 months later: Conservatives a small majority, Labour second and Lib dems a rout. I also made two that were slightly off: a low turnout (it was average) and 10 seats for UKIP, they got 1 seat but they did get 12.6% of the vote.

What was the basis of my prediction? Two things: firstly a fundamental reality about leadership and secondly human behaviour, i.e. the behaviour of the electorate.

These are two things that opinion polls failed to register. I am more puzzled as to why these did not come through focus groups though it is now emerging that some focus groups did point to the result but that the media and politicians were obsessed with polls, debates and ‘expert punditry. The Labour party also wanted to believe the polls and sidelined the focus group feedback.

Alfred Marshall said that “Maths and models should be ‘aids to thinking’, not substitutes for it”. People vote for people and a strong narrative.  None of the politicians were very charismatic or credible nor did they deliver a strong narrative. David Cameron was the least worst and had the strength of the economy on his side and a simpler platform of stick with of ‘let us finish the job of repairing the economy.’

Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems probably did worst of the main parties by losing 42 of their 56 seats. The party in coalition was reduced to a small marginal party. Their problem was that Clegg never showed authority in the coalition and was rolled over by the conservatives when most key issues arose. In short, they were weak partners and a weak party. No one wants to vote for weakness. The rot set in early for them and the outcome was inevitable. Though Clegg was weak he was in his defence the most authentic of the three main UK party leaders.

Ed Milliband was the least authentic. From the moment he took leadership he looked like a man with more ambition than talent. He did not even seem to be knowledgeable enough to do the job. He always looked as if he was working off a script or making it up as he went along. He had no core believes or principles to fall back on when he was put on the ropes. In short, he was a phony and the electorate knew it. He was not helped by having a shadow cabinet of career politicians who were as bad or worse than him. Ed Balls, shadow chancellor always looked like the ignorant school bully, not the man schooled in UK economics. He like the rest of labour had to resort to attacking the incumbents because they had no strong story of their own. They claimed to be better but they could never put across how this would be so.

The electorate disliked Cameron and his party for their aloofness, patrician style and concealment of truth. For these reasons there was little enthusiasm to vote for them and this is why the polls were so close, people were in their hearts undecided. But when it comes to the cross in the polling booth the heart gets a nudge from the head. This is why I was certain that labour would lose. Milliband was unelectable and lacked competence or any proof of competence.  He was not authentic and for this reason the rational minds ticked the Conservative box on the ballot paper. It was always going to be so. Only delusion and hubris could mask this reality for the labour party.

The lesson is about leadership. Milliband was always a questionable leader even within large parts of his party.  In today’s media environment and information complexity the need for strong leadership is paramount. With strong leadership goes consistent and firmly held beliefs. The political class is now derided because it lacks these characteristics.

Scotland and its bid for independence has shown the way in strong leadership in Alex Salmond and latterly Nicola Sturgeon. As a result the SNP compounded the misery of the Labour party and Lib Dems in Scotland. Of course, the new government now has to manage a feisty Scottish presence in UK parliament

The new government needs to consider in turn that they did not win the election. The others lost it.

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