I've encountered quite a few "let's cheer up, Tory majorities come and go" style posts on Facebook and Twitter. But I feel that this time it's very, very different and that we are now looking at the bleak prospect of England effectively becoming an one-party state, with decades of Tory rule - and all that implies for any vulnerable person in society, young or old. If you think that sounds like nonsense or hyperbole, bear with me and I'll try to spell out why I believe Tory rule for generations (in England anyway) is now an entirely plausible scenario.
1. Scotland's off soon - whether through the introduction of some form of 'devo max' arrangement or full-blown independence. This means that the introduction of English votes for English laws (so-called 'EVEL') is imminent. As they've just secured a majority in 2015, these English laws will be made by the Tories until the 2020 election, which they are practically guaranteed to win, for reasons which will be made clear below.
2. One of the laws the Tories will pass soon involves changing the electoral boundaries and reducing the number of MPs - in a way that will be very favourable to the Conservative Party. (They tried to pass this legislation in the last parliament but failed due to a spat with the now somewhat defunct Liberal Democrat party over House of Lords reform).
3. Recently the Conservatives changed the way that people register to vote - by introducing a new process called 'Individual Electoral Registration'. Google it for more background, but in a nutshell, it will make registering to vote significantly harder for certain groups - and yes, you guessed it, groups that tend not to vote Tory: the mobile, the young, university students and those in rented accommodation in urban areas.
4. The Conservatives will not replace the First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system with proportional representation (used in nearly all other western democracies). FPTP allows parties to win a majority of seats despite only winning a minority of votes - as happened in this election, with the Tories getting 37% of the vote, but 'winning' over 50% of the seats. Or the SNP getting less than half the number of votes that UKIP did, but 56 times the number of seats. Broadly speaking, the Tories have done very well out of FPTP, especially when its opponents have been split into several groups; and for this reason - and as we saw during the 2011 AV referendum - they are desperate to keep it, no matter how unrepresentative it is.
5. The combination of EVEL, electoral boundary changes, the reduction of the number of MPs in parliament and the preservation of First Past The Post will make it easier than ever before for the Tories to lock its opponents out of power. But if all that wasn't enough, the 2015 election victory ensures that there are two other key advantages that the Conservatives will be able to preserve that would in likelihood have been lost to them under a Labour-led coalition:
- Political support from a largely foreign-owned, rabidly right-wing press (a press which, as we've seen from the savaging dished out to Miliband recently, routinely succeeds in producing Goebbels-grade propaganda). The chances of the Leveson recommendations being implemented in any meaningful way, or media plurality laws being introduced, look fairly remote now.
- Financial support from wealthy donors: the Tories legislated last year to allow parties to spend more during election campaigns (obviously this is far more beneficial for the Tories than other parties) - and you can expect more of the same in the new parliament.
I hope that I'm wrong, but if you take all these developments into account - which have only been facilitated by this key 2015 'win' - it is hard to see anything but Tory hegemony, in England at least, for decades. And the other parties will only have themselves to blame - Blair and Brown (along with other Labour dinosaurs) passed up on the opportunity to introduce electoral reform, media plurality laws or state funding of political parties; and Clegg blew his 2010 kingmaker position by not making the introduction of proportional representation a red line, instead settling for an AV referendum that was always going to be fought tooth and nail by the Tories.
You can see now why they fought so dirty.