There has been an awful amount of hot air since the election defending one or other party. In fact, neither Clegg nor Cameron were convincing enough and came across as average schoolboy debaters who were cocksure enough to try to put the world to rights in front of their elders. Brown in spite of apparently massive unpopularity showed enough gravitas to rescue the Labour party from possible wipeout. So nobody swayed the electorate who essentially voted along tribal lines. Fewer than 100 seats changed hands out of 650. This was more than last time but still left a vast swathe of the country unchanged. The few surprises were probably the result of local conditions, very good candidates, hardworking agent, who knows? The electorate by and large vote on impressions, not analysis of possible outcomes. Landslides occur when one candidate produces an overwhelming flood of good impressions which affect nearly all the voters apart from the totally committed; Tony Blair did it in 1997. This time Clegg did create a good impression in the first debate but failed to capitalise on it. Otherwise nothing really stood out.
So what of the future? If a 5 year fixed parliamentary session really passes into law that will change everything. That assumes the logical corollaries of a normal 50% threshold for no confidence motions but a 66% threshold to dissolve parliament. That being the case, if this coalition falls apart, there should not be an election but a re-alignment which produces another coalition or minority administration. This process should continue until the 5 years is complete. All the parties will eventually discover that to gain credibility with an increasingly mature electorate they will need to be very sure of a popular mandate even to bring down a coalition let alone cause an election. Rock the boat for mere political gain and they would likely suffer a backlash at the polls because choosing the right moment to call the election will not be an available option.
There is no reason to suppose that this new version of British politics will be any worse than past administrations. No political party elected with a majority however large or small has pleased all the voters all of the time. It might be more accurate to say “pleased any of the voters any of the time”. For many years there has been a decline in the voting public’s regard for all politicians and recently that decline has accelerated as we all know. It could be that a more mature method of conducting the nation’s affairs will in fact improve the image of the political classes. It will not be before time, although few of them actually seem to have changed their spots in the last week.