I mean, check out the actual results.
Conservatives: increased vote share by about 12% of their previous total (32.2-> 36). Increased seats by over 45% (from 209 to 306).
Labour: reduced vote share by about 17% of their previous total, lost 25% of their seats.
Liberal Democrats: increased their vote share by 4-5% of previous total (22->23); lost about 8% of their seats.
Given all this, what worries me is what Deb Orr says here
Yet, the Lib Dems are the party least able to survive or thrive in the event of another election too. So it is in their own interest as well as the national interest to support some form of stable government in the wake of this election. They have no other option but to accept that while the Conservatives did not win the election, they did come first.
Amidst the welter of commentary advice and so on from the papers, I found Jonathan Freedland’s piece standing out, describing Clegg’s ‘excruciating dilemma’. Of the Conservative offer, despite its temptations:
the drawbacks are glaring. Too many Lib Dems – including big names such as Lords Ashdown and Steel – hint that they could not swallow an alliance with the old Tory enemy, so far apart on Europe, immigration and Trident.
And of the Labour alternative?
A Lib-Lab government would be branded a coalition of losers, one that vindicated the Tory slogan “Vote Clegg, get Brown”. However desperate Brown is, he might struggle to give Clegg full-blown PR: too many Labour MPs will say no. Clegg worries too that, even if agreement were possible, the electorate would be unforgiving: they want to see their politicians focusing on jobs, not the electoral rules of the Westminster club.
The Tories are castigating themselves like nuts over the conduct of the campaign. Quite rightly: they went from 38-40 down to 34 till 36 was a recovery. They lost this lead to the Lib Dems, remember, who went from 19 to 23. No wonder as the Times reports, “The decision to give Nick Clegg a platform was a grave blunder, as even Mr Cameron has come close to acknowledging.”
The Economist draws attention to how much any whiff of compromise to the Lib Dems would irk the Tory backbenchers:
Any substantial concessions he offers to the Lib Dems will rile them even more. Even his vague flirtation with electoral-system tinkering is already being cursed in a party dead set against anything that sniffs of proportional representation, which they think could shut their party out of government indefinitely. The notion of Lib Dems taking ministerial positions earmarked for Conservatives is hugely provocative to his own side
One question I just don’t know the answer to: how serious a threat to Cameron is Tory disaffection, the return of old Right thinking* and disunity? I tend to agree with Ben Macintyre: Cameron can be hugely impressive. He is clearly cool in a crisis. Looking at the front bench of alternatives – odd but clever Gove and Letwin, Pickles Hague and the rest – one part of me is amazed that more Conservatives are not throwing up daily prayers for Cameron’s arrival 5 years ago.
But the other half wonders, again and again, at how a Conservative party blessed with the advantages of facing Gordon Brown, a deep recession and 13 years to sort itself out, with a huge war chest and an electoral system that suits it to a painful degree, has got itself into this weak position. Maybe they are right to be angry?
I think there is a growing consensus that Labour have had a great week – ‘serene’ is one description. They have shown amazing resilience. LibDems are understandably nervous about more elections, after the way the potty system kicked them in the nuts yet again. But so, too, should the Conservatives be. What if this is as good as it gets?
* read Gray’s interesting column on the return of the Tory Bigoted Tendency