We’re supposed to be a caring, compassionate people – so how come we just voted for a further £12billion of so far unspecified welfare cuts?
We were supposed to be sick and tired of being governed by a bunch of public-schoolboys born with more money than most of us will earn in a lifetime of honest work. So how come we just voted to give them more power, not less?
The answer to these questions is in one way heartening – and in another deeply galling.
The answer is that most of us voted for none of these things.
Contrary to reports and appearances, the Conservative Party didn’t win last week’s General Election.
Well, in the most crucial way of course they did. They will claim they have a mandate to do all the things they want to do. Now we’ll find out just how much they were restrained over the last five years by their coalition partners, the now sadly lamented Liberal Democrats.
But in two distinct ways they DIDN’T win it.
1 Mathematically. Less than a quarter of the eligible electorate actually voted for them.
Those who greeted Friday morning with distaste, horror or at best indifference outnumbered those who’d got the result they voted for by more than three to one.
2 It was an election not so much won by the Tories as lost by Labour.
Let’s deal with the figures first, because they’re easier to understand.
The total number of people registered to vote last Thursday was 46,425,386.
The total number who voted Conservative was 11,334,920.
A third didn’t bother to vote, either not realising or not caring that not voting amounts to a vote for the establishment.
All of which means that David Cameron’s “resounding mandate” amounted to the backing of just 24.4pc of the electorate.
The Green Party got 1,157,613 votes – 3.8pc of the total – but just one MP. The Conservatives, with less than 10 times as many votes, got 331 times as many seats.
The injustice was even greater for UKIP, whose solitary seat came from a remarkable 3,881,129 votes – more than a third as many as the Tories and 12.6pc of the total.
Looking at these sums it’s hard to deny that Britain urgently needs electoral reform and some system of proportional representation.
It’s also hard to imagine anything being done about it by a party that has just done so well out of the existing archaic mess.
As for Labour, they should know by now not to trust the pollsters, having snatched defeat from the jaws of promised victory twice before.
I remember well my father’s fury in 1970, when Ted Heath’s Tories turned Harold Wilson out of No 10, against all predictions. And if that was too long ago for them, Labour’s current generation ought to recall 1992. That’s when Neil Kinnock was tipped to oust John Major in what was predicted to be a close-run thing, and wasn’t.
On that occasion, it was allegedly “The Sun wot won it”. That paper might make the same claim for its lack of balance this time too.
But character assassination and front-page caricatures aside, Labour lost last week because they simply didn’t offer a clear and viable alternative plan.
They have spent five wasted years failing to make the argument that austerity is the problem, not the answer.
Allowing the Government to keep getting away with its assertion that “we’re all in this together”.
As if the past five years had not seen the rich getting a lot richer, while more people are made homeless, more reduced to reliance on food banks.
Letting them crow about “more jobs” when so many of those jobs are low-paid, part-time, lacking security, on zero hours or no contracts, often lacking sick pay and proper pension arrangements.
Labour’s failure was in offering nothing more compelling than Tory-lite, austerity-lite.
It failed to convince in England, and it left the party wiped out north of the border.
Talk of independence complicated matters, but the SNP made the anti-austerity case clearly and were rewarded with a landslide victory. Not 36pc of the vote, but 51pc.
The fact that the SNP got 56 seats from just 4.7pc of the total vote across Britain obviously strengthens the case for PR, but in a way it’s a red herring. Where they stood, they got an absolute majority of votes – something the other parties could only dream of.
Fear of the SNP, successfully whipped up, probably helped the Tories into power. Ironic, then, that the Tory triumph makes Scottish independence much more likely, not less. Though it would probably suit a party who would then have high hopes of ruling England for the foreseeable future.
Should that happen, it might be almost irrelevant who are to become the leaders of the other parties.
What Labour need desperately – what they’ve needed desperately for years – is a clear-thinking, charismatic leader. Unfortunately, there seems to be no Nicola Sturgeon in their ranks.