David Cameron has been gracious in victory and Nick Clegg has been dignified in defeat, while Ed Miliband has felt like something of a bit-part player. The only real explanation of the drubbing of the Lib Dems is that their own voters have deserted them. The real story of election night is that the Tory vote held up so well. Conservative ministers will feel emboldened in their cuts-reform double whammy agenda. The fact that their Coalition partners no longer have a mandate should give them pause for thought. But it probably won’t. At this rate they are well on course for victory in 2015.
Nick Clegg may be urged to distance himself from his Coalition partners, but he really has no leverage now as his only choice is between sticking with it or annihilation. Much still depends on how deeply the cuts bite in the south over the next six months to a year. But the reality is that we now have the confirmation that the country is more fragmented than it has been for decades. Scotland and Wales have gone their own way. But England is now officially split on sectarian lines between those who support and those who oppose the cuts.
David Cameron has built his career on being a consensus politician but he is now the leader of a faction.
I think Nick Clegg was speaking from his heart when he said he thought people are worried about a return to brutal Thatcherism. He meant his people. He is now the leader of a rump.