Before we start, I want to say that I feel that David Cameron has, by gaining the most votes and the most seats by a fairly clear margin, earned the right to try and form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. He will probably be our next PM and should be congratulated for that.
However, he managed to throw away a commanding lead and now has a very hard task ahead of him.
Basically, everyone lost this election. I'll try and give three possible reasons for each of the parties doing badly in.
1. Europe, specifically Lisbon: Cameron's change of policy on the issue of the Lisbon Treaty and strange position with the European People's Party block was a fudge that pleased now. The result was a rise in BNP and UKIP support, which in at least three seats including Gedling and Eltham was greater than the Labour majority. Worth a serious study that.
2. Scotland: Still has bad memories of the Thatcher years. Cameron needed to win seats up there and didn't. Probably didn't focus enough on it.
3. Too slick: Cameron came across as too slick and smooth. For an electorate who'd spent ten years with Tony Blair, it wasn't the best idea.
1. 13 years in office: Only one government since the war has exceeded that period and that was the Thatcher-Major one. Most administrations have been far shorter. After that time and a third term that frankly wasn't brilliant, many people had enough of Labour. A hung parliament in 2005 might have been better for Labour.
2. The economy: You do not preside over a major recession and expect to remain in office. Full stop.
3. Gordon Brown: While the soon-to-be former Labour leader and PM has some strong qualities, charisma isn't one of them. Brown could have worked better in a radio age, but politics has changed. He also was too associated with the previous 13 years.
1. The electoral system: What gain in the Liberal Democrat vote was spread too thinly across the country to swing seats.
2. Immigration and Europe: The Liberal Democrat views on them are not in tune with the rest of the electorate and the third debate's discussion on the subject was
3. Lack of publicity apart from the debate: I didn't see one publicly displayed Lib Dem billboard and never received a leaflet from them.
Despite the support of Ashcroft's millions and most of the British press against a tired government in a weak economy, David Cameron failed to gain an overall majority due to policy problems and a poor campaign.
It's going to be a fun next couple of years.