Liberal Democrats were defeated because of their fundamental dishonesty in promising left-wing policies in the north and conservative policies in the south
By Tim Montgomerie
There are basically three stories of the night and the biggest is the Liberal Democrat collapse in cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Hull and Sheffield where most voters lean to the Left. After decades of being different things to different voters they have been "found out" (to use Nigel Farage's words). They weren't defeated because they got a bad deal from David Cameron. They were defeated because of a fundamental and decades-long dishonesty in their proposition to voters, promising left-wing policies to places like Liverpool and conservative-sounding policies to voters in southern England. Concessions from Cameron aren't going to alter that. Later today it's set to get worse for the Liberal Democrats when they lose their historic dream of electoral reform and lose it for a generation. This is a "grow up" moment for Nick Clegg and his party. They need to rethink their strategic position in British politics and answer fundamental questions about their identity. Otherwise, we could be returning to two party politics (outside of Scotland) and, if Lib Dems keep blaming the Tories for their plight, few Conservatives will have any sympathy.
Cameron is the big winner of the night. Many Tory councillors have lost their seats but the nationwide results for the party aren't disastrous. We were defending excellent results from four years ago. Most importantly Cameron has successfully defended First Past The Post. After a slow campaign at the start of the year he realised what was at stake and gave the order to fight AV with everything he and the party had. He has nothing to apologise for. He gave Clegg the referendum on the day the Lib Dems wanted. The Liberal Democrats may hate the loss of their dreamed-after prize but Tories should celebrate Cameron's winning campaign. We must push to win a majority of our own at the next General Election. I agree with Julian Astle and Martin Kettle; realignment is now over as a project. The Coalition is a temporary business contract. It's not a romantic relationship.
Cameron is coming under enormous pressure to give more concessions to the Liberal Democrats. If Cameron grants them they won't be granted to keep the Lib Dems in Coalition. Last night proved that the yellow team has nowhere else to go, other than to wipeout. Concessions are about saving Nick Clegg from an unhappy and rebellious Liberal Democrat party. Cameron wants him as his Deputy and may even keep him if, at some point much later in the parliament, he is ousted as Liberal Democrat leader.
The third story is Ed Miliband's poor night. Labour is divided over AV and it lost badly in Scotland; its heartland of heartlands. The rise of the SNP should worry every unionist, however. The victorious Alex Salmond has a majority and an opportunity to hold an independence referendum. All polls say that most Scots want to stay part of the UK but referenda aren't always about the issue on the ballot paper but become a vote on other issues.