Now that the election is well and truly over (well, almost) the political landscape looks like a slightly different place..
Firstly, Tony Blair is facing challenges to his “mandate” left, right and centre — literally. The seemingly never-ending criticism from his own backbenchers ever since Friday suggests that even with a majority Blair is going to find it pretty tough to get anything even remotely controversial through the House of Commons.
The West Lothian Question has also been popping up in all sorts of ugly forms aswell. Seeing as how the Conservatives “won England” in terms of votes, Blair will find it extremely difficult to justify using Scottish MPs to push through controversial legislation that affects England only. All sorts of possibilities seem to keep on cropping up; a seemingly never-ending list of West Lothian quandaries. What if Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister? He will be a Scottish PM representing accountable to voters in a Scottish constituency in charge of English-only issues. The Conservatives are sure to make a big issue of this, especially considering that they had the most votes in England. Quite rightly, this should cause Blair a headache.
But whilst the Conservatives had the most votes in England, they did not win the most seats. Getting a fairer electoral system seems to be the issue everybody’s talking about at the moment. Quite right too.
Charles Kennedy’s trying to work out how the Lib Dems could possibly improve on 62 seats. Local Income Tax could be an early casualty. Hmm.
Michael Howard, on the other hand, is a “lame duck” leader. I’ve always said the Tories need to reinvent themselves, a la New Labour. It sounds like they’re finally realising this, and discussions on the future direction of the Conservatives will be interesting to follow.
Scotland’s having its own wee political upheaval. With Jim Wallace leaving, the question is not quite so much “who can replace Jim Wallace?,” as, “can anybody think of any other Lib Dem MSPs?” Nicol Stephen seems to be the man everybody’s backing. Along with this, everybody seems to think that the future of the Labour / Lib Dem coalition is doomed. The chances of a Lib Dem / SNP coalition? If Labour can’t form a coalition, you can bet on it. From a Lib Dem point of view, teaming up with the SNP is not as ridiculous as partnering Labour. Apart from that sticky independence issue, the SNP and the Lib Dems have pretty similar policies overall.
Update: A further thought on the Conservative leadership. Surely it cannot be Hague as some seem to be suggesting? This is a man who thought the 2001 General Election was a referendum on the pound, and who boasted that he regularly drank fourteen baseball caps per day as a student. Or something.