Monday, 15 June 2015

Preserving the Magna Carta myth

'No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned... except by the lawful judgement of his peers and by the law of the land’
Magna Carta - Clause 39

MYTHS generally exist for the sole purpose of being debunked - but there are certain myths which deserve to endure the test of time simply because of their undeniable symbolic importance.

The Magna Carta - which today celebrated its 800th anniversary - is one such example.

Still now seen as a symbol of the foundation of liberty and modern day democracy, the 1215 Magna Carta was effectively just a peace treaty between unpopular King John and a bunch of rebellious barons.

It did include the clause - 'No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned... except by the lawful judgement of his peers and by the law of the land’ - which remains in English law today.

But, at first, it was actually a terrible failure. Within months, Pope Innocent III annulled the Charter at King John's request - and, in October 1216, John became ill and died.

Consequently, Henry III inherited the throne - a nine-year-old boy who, under the instructions of John, came under the guardianship of William Marshal, an important knight.

Marshal was also a skilled politician and, under renewed pressure from the barons, thought it best to renegotiate a settlement in 1216.

It was only really at that point that it became clear the Magna Carta was here to stay - and it remained for many years a living document which was frequently updated until its issue under Edward I in 1297.

Even then, of course, it still only served the purposes of a few nobles and barons, and not the people at large - but, as the centuries rolled by, it remained in the public consciousness.

Indeed, in the 17th century specifically, the Magna Carta became an important starting point for those arguing against the absolute authority of the English monarchy.

The arguments between the Crown and the politicians rumbled on and England slipped into an inevitable Civil War.

The seven-year conflict ended with the execution of Charles I - and England briefly became a republic under Oliver Cromwell.

Cromwell's death led to the Restoration of the House of Stuart in 1660 - but absolute monarchy lasted a mere 28 years more.

For, in 1688, William and Mary were invited by Parliament to overthrow (the last) Catholic monarch James II in the Glorious Revolution before enacting the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights finally brought to an end absolute monarchy and recognised the supremacy of Parliament - and yet, it still left huge swathes of the country disenfranchised.

Catholics were particularly hard-done by, and the working man - and woman - remained without the vote, something which would effectively become another major social struggle, lasting until the last century.

Over the Atlantic Ocean, meanwhile, revolutionaries in the United States explicitly referenced the Magna Carta when forming their Constitution - and so, its iconic symbolic status was nonetheless reconfirmed.

Again, in 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - and Eleanor Roosevelt expressed her hope that it would become “the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere”.

And so, this brings us up to the present day, and the hard-fought freedoms to which Frank Turner refers in his song 'Sons of Liberty'.

Certainly, in many ways, the British Isles feel socially more liberal than ever before. For example, more people from poorer backgrounds attend Higher Education than ever before, despite the high-profile increase in tuition fees.

Elsewhere, the hitherto conservative Irish last month legalised gay marriage by a comfortable 62-38 margin.

But the 21st century has also provided clear evidence of the limits of people power. Millions marched against the Iraq war in 2003 and yet the war still went ahead.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks and Edward Snowden confirmed the suspicion that our governments were spying on us - something which the current majority Conservative administration seems to revel in, if revived plans for a snoopers' charter are anything to go by.

Last month's general election was also an instance of public disenfranchisement. The antiquated first past the post system resulted in UKIP (3.8m) and the Green Party (1.1m) polling nearly 5m votes for the grand total of one seat each.

Moreover, the Liberal Democrats, with 2.4m votes, were reduced to a rump of eight seats - while the Scottish National Party won 56 from 1.4m ballots.

George Dangerfield famously wrote a book in 1935 titled The Strange Death of Liberal England about the decline of the Liberal Party in the inter-war years.

And, if he were still alive today, he could certainly now write a second edition about the Lib Dems.

Yes, sadly, big 'L' liberalism did lose its way somewhat in the coalition. True, they moderated some of the Conservatives' right-wing tendencies but they also voted through too many things they never should have.

Nevertheless, small 'l' liberalism will always have a place in British politics and society - the mythical status of the Magna Carta will see to that.

This blog post was based on Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt, an exhibition at Palace Green Library in Durham from 1 June-31 August which features the only surviving 1216 issue of the Charter. Tickets available here.

So if ever a man should ask you for your business or your name,
Tell him to go and fuck himself, tell his friends to do the same
Because a man who'd trade his liberty for a safe and dreamless sleep
Doesn't deserve the both of them and neither shall he keep
Frank Turner - Sons of Liberty - Poetry of the Deed (2009)

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Copa America preview: First title chance for Chile

A FASCINATING 44th edition of the Copa America began in the early hours of yesterday with hosts Chile easing to a 2-0 win over Ecuador in Santiago.

Remarkably, the Chileans - who are hosting the tournament for the first time since 1991 - have never won a single Copa America in its 99-year history.

But home advantage, a strong team by historical standards, and - most of all - a kindly draw have all given La Roja fans hope of finally breaking their duck.

After all, Chile have avoided Argentina and Uruguay - who have been pitted together in Group B - as well as Brazil and Colombia who are in Group C.

Of course, that draw also means there will be two almighty clashes as early as the group stages.

Holders Uruguay are without their talisman Luis Suarez who is still banned from international football after he took a chunk out of Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder at the last World Cup.

By contrast, pre-tournament favourites Argentina can call upon Suarez's Barcelona team-mate, the already-legendary Lionel Messi, as well as Manchester City's Premier League top scorer Sergio Aguero.

Nevertheless, out of the 12 teams competing, the weight of history is likely to rest on the shoulders of the Argentines most heavily - even taking into account Chile's complete lack of success over the years.

For, Argentina have not won the Copa America since 1993, and missed a huge chance of ending this depressing streak when hosting the last edition in 2011.

Instead, La Albiceleste went out to their great rivals from across the Rio de la Plata in the quarter finals on penalties - and, ultimately, the resurgence of Uruguayan football was confirmed by a 3-0 win over Paraguay in the Final.

Notably, the result also took La Celeste back clear of Argentina - with 15 titles to the Argentines' 14 - in the overall record. Brazil trail in third on eight.

Brazil fans will point out, though, that four of those eight titles have come since Argentina last tasted success.

And the Seleção will be eager to make it three wins out of the last four Copas as part of their continued rehabilitation under coach Dunga following the awful end to their home World Cup last year.

Memories of last year's disappointment are unsurprisingly proving hard to shrug off in Brazil - despite an excellent record of 10 wins in a row since then.

Indeed, those memories are likely to come flooding back when Brazil take on Colombia in Group C in a repeat of last summer's World Cup quarter final.

Last July, Brazil prevailed 2-1 from a rough match - but victory came at a cost as they lost their brightest hope Neymar after he was effectively kicked out of the tournament.

Brazil could have few complaints, however - their constant tactical fouling had turned the quarter final into a pitched battle - and so, while this next match will undoubtedly be a spectacle, it will not be a pretty one.

Naturally, there will still be little moments of genius from Neymar - and his counterpart James Rodriguez - but it would be fair to say, one year on, these teams still do not like each other very much.

It is a shame then - given the presence of Messi, Neymar, James, and Arsenal's Chilean Alexis Sanchez, as well as the numerous sub-plots in South American football - that the tournament has been afforded scant coverage in the UK.

Of course, many of the kick-off times - including Argentina v Uruguay (12.30am) and Brazil v Colombia (1am) - are only really suitable for nightowls and insomniacs.
But, in being shuffled off to subscription channel Premier Sports, the Copa America sadly somehow gets far less coverage than the weaker biennial African Cup of Nations.

A calendar of the fixtures is provided below (all times BST). Group winners and runners-up qualify for the knockout stages along with the best two third-placed teams.

12-Jun 00:30 CHILE2-0ECUADORSantiago
13-Jun 00:30 MEXICO0-0BOLIVIAVina del Mar
15-Jun 22:00ECUADOR2-3BOLIVIAValparaiso
16-Jun 00:30CHILE3-3MEXICOSantiago
19-Jun 22:00MEXICO1-2ECUADORRancagua
20-Jun 00:30CHILE5-0BOLIVIASantiago

(Q) CHILE210103+77
(Q) BOLIVIA11137-44

13-Jun 20:00URUGUAY1-0JAMAICAAntofagasta
13-Jun 22:30ARGENTINA2-2PARAGUAYLa Serena
16-Jun 20:00PARAGUAY1-0JAMAICAAntofagasta
17-Jun 00:30ARGENTINA1-0URUGUAYLa Serena
20-Jun 20:00URUGUAY1-1PARAGUAYLa Serena
20-Jun 22:30ARGENTINA1-0JAMAICAVina del Mar

(Q) ARGENTINA21042+27
(Q) PARAGUAY12043+15
(Q) URUGUAY1112204

14-Jun 20:00COLOMBIA0-1VENEZUELARancagua
14-Jun 22:30BRAZIL2-1PERUTemuco
18-Jun 01:00BRAZIL0-1COLOMBIASantiago
19-Jun 00:30PERU1-0VENEZUELAValparaiso
21-Jun 20:00COLOMBIA0-0PERUTemuco
21-Jun 22:30BRAZIL2-1VENEZUELASantiago

(Q) BRAZIL20143+16
(Q) PERU1112204
(Q) COLOMBIA1111104

25-Jun 00:30CHILE1-0URUGUAYSantiago
26-Jun 00:30BOLIVIA1-3PERUTemuco
27-Jun 00:30ARGENTINA*0-0COLOMBIAVina del Mar
27-Jun 22:30BRAZIL1-1PARAGUAY^Concepcion
*ARGENTINA won 5-4 on penalties    ^PARAGUAY won 4-3 on penalties

30-Jun 00:30CHILEvPERUSantiago
01-Jul 00:30ARGENTINAvPARAGUAYConcepcion

04-Jul 00:30 LOSER SF1vLOSER SF2Concepcion

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Season 2014/15: Chelsea lead from start to finish

(C) CHELSEA (P38 W26 D9 L3 F73 A32 Pts 87)
FA Cup: lost 2-4 v Bradford City (H) in fourth round
League Cup: won 2-0 v Tottenham Hotspur in Final at Wembley
Europe: lost on away goals after 3-3 on agg v Paris Saint-Germain (1-1a, 2-2h aet) in UCL Last 16
Manager: Jose Mourinho (since June 2013) Top scorer: Diego Costa (21)
Chelsea led the League from start to finish as the Blues picked up a third Premier League crown under Jose Mourinho. An excellent start saw the Chelsea lose just once in the league before Christmas - and, although defending champions Manchester City kept pace up until the turn of the year, Mourinho's men remained relentless in their pursuit. It was not always the prettiest stuff - and Chelsea's position as pacesetter allowed them to nullify their main rivals by settling for draws home and away against Manchester City, and away to Manchester United and Arsenal. That point from the stalemate at the Emirates left the Blues on the verge - as was abundantly clear from the celebrations of their players - and they reached the required mark in their next match, a game in hand at Leicester City, in a fine comeback win. Predictably, under Mourinho, the title win was built on the strength of statistically the best defence in the league - but that should not detract from an excellent first season in England for Diego Costa, nor from PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard's record of 13 goals and eight assists. Undoubtedly, though, there were also some disappointments - no one would have expected Chelsea to concede as many goals as they did in their shock exits to Bradford City and Paris Saint-Germain. Nevertheless, this was still another highly successful campaign for Chelsea and Mourinho, who has begun the trophy haul in his second spell at Stamford Bridge in exactly the same way as he did in his first - with a Premier League and League Cup double. 

2 MANCHESTER CITY (P38 W24 D7 L7 F83 A38 Pts 79)
FA Cup: lost 0-2 v Middlesbrough (H) in fourth round
League Cup: lost 0-2 v Newcastle United (H) in fourth round
Europe: lost 1-3 on agg v Barcelona (1-2h, 0-1a) in UCL Last 16
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini (since June 2013) Top scorer: Sergio Agüero (32)
For the second time in three years, Manchester City made an awful hash at defending their title, although they did still finish again as Premier League top scorers. That latter fact was, in no small part, down to Sergio Aguero who finished as the division's individual top scorer for the first time with 26 goals in the league. But, while City just about kept pace with Chelsea heading into the New Year, they were neutralised in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge at the end of January. Shortly afterwards, four consecutive away defeats - at Liverpool, Burnley, Crystal Palace, and Manchester United - left Manuel Pellegrini's men in fourth, 12 points behind the leaders having played a game more. A finish of six consecutive wins ensured City avoided the Champions League qualifiers and closed the final gap to eight points - but poor performances in both domestic cups and an inevitable defeat to Barcelona in Europe rendered this a seriously under-par trophyless season at Eastlands.   

3 ARSENAL (P38 W22 D9 L7 F71 A36 Pts 75)
FA Cup: won 4-0 v Aston Villa in Final at Wembley
League Cup: lost 1-2 v Southampton (H) in third round
Europe: lost on away goals after 3-3 on agg v Monaco (1-3h, 2-0a) in UCL Last 16
Manager: Arsene Wenger (since October 1996) Top scorer: Alexis Sanchez (24)
A season which began at Wembley - with a 3-0 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield - ended just as happily under the arch as Arsenal became only the fourth team in history to have retained the FA Cup on two separate occasions. Chilean Alexis Sanchez capped a brilliant first season in English football with a stunning drive to put the Gunners 2-0 up against Aston Villa, and that goal effectively killed the game off shortly after half time. But success for Sanchez and Arsenal in the Cup was not replicated in the Premier League as a spate of early draws and defeats at home to Manchester United and away to Chelsea, Swansea City and Stoke City left Arsene Wenger's men with far too much to do. Form picked up after Christmas with 13 wins out of 15 - though one of the two defeats came away in the derby against Tottenham Hotspur. Nevertheless, that fine run lifted Arsenal into second before a combination of cup distraction and the inevitability of Chelsea winning the league meant the Gunners settled for third.

(P38 W20 D10 L8 F62 A37 Pts 70) 
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Arsenal (H) in QF
League Cup: lost 0-4 v Milton Keynes Dons (H) in second round
Manager: Louis Van Gaal (since July 2014) Top scorer: Wayne Rooney (14)
It was never likely to be easy - and this was not an unprecedented success for Louis Van Gaal - but the Dutchman did at least ensure that the absence of Manchester United from the Champions League was limited to just one season - provided he can win the early-season playoff, of course. Not only because of that, Van Gaal will want the Red Devils to start next season much better than they did this campaign in which three early defeats and a humiliating League Cup exit to Milton Keynes Dons left him with a worse early-season record than his much-maligned predecessor David Moyes. The difference between the pair was that Van Gaal was able to retain the confidence of his squad - and, slowly but surely, the wins started coming with more regularity - six in a row shortly before Christmas and another six in a row during the spring. It was that second run which pretty much ensured Man United would be back on the big stage in Europe, culminating as it did in a 4-2 beating of rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford. But a late-season wobble of three league defeats on the bounce showed that this team in its present form is still well short of being a credible title challenger.

5 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (P38 W19 D7 L12 F58 A53 Pts 64)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Leicester City (H) in fourth round
League Cup: lost 0-2 v Chelsea in Final at Wembley
Europe: lost 1-3 on agg v Fiorentina (1-1h, 0-2a) in UEL Last 32
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino (since May 2014) Top scorer: Harry Kane (31)
Tottenham Hotspur went forwards in terms of position but backwards in terms of points in a patchy first season under Argentine boss Mauricio Pochettino. Harry Kane was the undoubted star of the show, becoming the first Spurs player since Gary Lineker to hit more than 30 goals in a single campaign. The season, though, was plagued throughout by problems at the other end of the field. Only Leicester City, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers conceded more goals than Spurs who also lost more league games in 2014-15 than in any of the previous five seasons. Six of the 12 defeats came in the first 14 games and the North Londoners spent much of the early part of the season in mid-table. Form picked up either side of Christmas, culminating in a 2-1 home win over Arsenal and a League Cup Final appearance. But defeat at Wembley led to another slight downturn - before wins on both of the last two weekends ensured Tottenham avoided the early season Europa League qualifiers.

6 LIVERPOOL (P38 W18 D8 L12 F52 A48 Pts 62)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Aston Villa in SF at Wembley
League Cup: lost 1-2 on agg v Chelsea (1-1h, 0-1a) in SF
Europe: lost 4-5 on pens after 1-1 on agg v Besiktas (1-0h, 0-1aet a) in UEL Last 32. Knocked out of UCL group stage (W1 D3 L2 F5 A9) 
Manager: Brendan Rodgers (since June 2012) Top scorer: Steven Gerrard (13)
For the second time in six seasons, Liverpool have followed up a title challenge with a season as an also-ran. In 2008-09, the Reds finished a close second to Manchester United before finishing seventh in 2009-10 - and, this time, Brendan Rodgers' side only did marginally better to finish sixth, although they were actually one point worse off. It went wrong from the start - seven league defeats by Christmas were more than the Reds had suffered in the whole of the previous campaign. And, although there was a resurgence in the New Year, a faint Champions League push effectively ended when Manchester United won 2-1 at Anfield. Liverpool ended up winning just two and losing five of their last nine games, including a 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in Steven Gerrard's last home match and a 6-1 humiliation on the last day of the season at Stoke City. It could have also easily been Rodgers' last game but, after a difficult season all round, American owners the Fenway Group are keeping the faith for now.

7 SOUTHAMPTON (P38 W18 D6 L14 F54 A33 Pts 60)
FA Cup: lost 2-3 v Crystal Palace (H) in fourth round
League Cup: lost 0-1 v Sheffield United (A) in QF
Manager: Ronald Koeman (since June 2014) Top scorer: Graziano Pelle (16)
Southampton completely confounded expectations by recovering from the pillaging of more than £90m of squad assets to enjoy the best season in decades. For a while, it looked as if it was going to be even better as an autumn run of eight wins out of nine, including an 8-0 thrashing of Sunderland, left the Saints in second place behind only Chelsea. A harsh dose of reality followed in December after four consecutive defeats - but, still, Ronald Koeman's men were not finished, as a run which began before Christmas and lasted until February brought a haul of 16 points out of 18. It included a draw against Chelsea, a home win against Arsenal and an away win against Manchester United - but, ultimately, the blinding form could not be sustained. Indeed, half of Southampton's 14 league defeats came in the last 13 games and main striker Graziano Pelle looked less razor sharp than he did in the first two-thirds of the campaign. Of course, Southampton could still play on their day as Aston Villa found to their cost in a 6-1 mauling in the Saints' last home game. Saido Mane scored the fastest ever Premier League hat-trick in that match and, with Arsenal winning the FA Cup, Southampton qualified for Europe for the first time since 2003.  

8 SWANSEA CITY (P38 W16 D8 L14 F46 A49 Pts 56)
FA Cup: lost 1-3 v Blackburn Rovers (A) in fourth round
League Cup: lost 1-2 v Liverpool (A) in fourth round
Manager: Garry Monk (since February 2014) Top scorer: Bafetimbi Gomis (10)
Swansea City finished with their highest Premier League points total and a place in the top eight of the top division for the first time since 1982. Yes, this was a superb season for Garry Monk's men from the very first day which saw the Swans upset Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford immediately prior to two more wins which made them the pacesetters alongside Chelsea. Of course, that was never likely to last but this was still a season of little panic, if any, in south Wales. After all, the Swans never recorded more than two league defeats in a row - and, while their overall total of 46 league goals was hardly prolific, Monk could count on a couple of hotshot strikers to keep his team on the fringes of the top seven for most of the season. In the first half of the campaign, it was Wilfried Bony who took most of the plaudits - but, even when he was allowed to leave for Manchester City, up stepped summer signing Bafetimbi Gomis to finish the club's top scorer in league and cup with 10 goals.

9 STOKE CITY (P38 W15 D9 L14 F48 A45 Pts 54)
FA Cup: lost 1-4 v Blackburn Rovers (A) in fifth round
League Cup: lost 2-3 v Southampton (H) in fourth round
Manager: Mark Hughes (May 2013) Top scorer: Mame Biram Diouf (12)
Stoke City recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes in the top flight for the first time since 1975 after another fine season under Mark Hughes. The Potters' 54 points is their highest Premier League total and, following a glorious 6-1 thrashing of Liverpool on the final day, this was also the first Premier League campaign in which Stoke ended up with a positive goal difference. A slow-ish start was never enough to put Stoke in trouble - but consecutive league wins did not arrive until after Christmas. Then, at the end of December, the Potters beat Everton and West Bromwich Albion - and, at the end of January, repeated the feat against Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers. In February, three wins in a row - against Aston Villa, Hull City and Everton again - lifted Stoke to eighth and took them past the 40-point mark. Thereafter, the inconsistency returned - but Stoke seemed to save their best for the big occasion, easily beating Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 before that unforgettable final afternoon against Brendan Rodgers' Reds. 

10 CRYSTAL PALACE (P38 W13 D9 L16 F47 A51 Pts 48)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Liverpool (H) in fifth round
League Cup: lost 2-3 aet v Newcastle United (H) in third round
Manager: Alan Pardew (since January 2015) Top scorer: Dwight Gayle (10)
Crystal Palace began the first ever occurrence of them playing a second successive Premier League season as if it would be their last top flight season for a while. Manager Tony Pulis left on the eve of the campaign, citing irreconcilable differences with the board over transfer targets - and, not for the first time, his replacement, Neil Warnock, struggled in the Premier League. Indeed, Palace won only three of their first 18 games, and a Boxing Day defeat to Southampton dropped the Eagles into the bottom three to signal the end for Warnock. The New Year heralded the return of a prodigal son to south London as Alan Pardew escaped Newcastle United for a club where he feels much more at home. The impact of Pardew was immediate as a mini-revival of four wins out of eight was followed by an even better run of form - four successive wins, including a 2-1 defeat of Manchester City. By this stage, Palace were safe - and four successive defeats pointed towards a repeat of the bi-polar runs which Pardew enjoyed and endured in the north east. But back-to-back wins over Liverpool at Anfield and Swansea City at home on the last day ensured everyone at Selhurst Park waltzed off into the summer with a smile on their face. 

11 EVERTON (P38 W12 D11 L15 F48 A50 Pts 47)
FA Cup: lost 8-9 on pens v West Ham United (A) in third round replay (after 1-1h, 2-2aet a)
League Cup: lost 0-3 v Swansea City (A) in third round
Europe: lost 4-6 on agg v Dynamo Kiev (2-1h, 2-5a) in UEL Last 16
Manager: Roberto Martinez (since July 2013) Top scorer: Romelu Lukaku (20)
Everton finished in the bottom half of the Premier League for the first time since 2006 leaving Roberto Martinez under pressure heading into next season. The Spaniard may have done well in leading the Merseysiders to a fifth place finish in his first campaign at Goodison - but he has pretty much wiped out all that credit after the flop of 2014-15. It was the four consecutive defeats in the Christmas fixtures which first properly highlighted the Merseysiders' woes - and they came in a wider sequence of just two wins and nine defeats in 16 games. A heavy defeat to Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League last 16 in March arguably came as a blessing as, immediately afterwards, the Toffees finally put some decent league form together. Two 3-0 home wins over Newcastle United and Manchester United bookended a run of 16 points out of 18 as Everton moved away from a relegation battle in which they never should have been involved. But a rickety, ageing backline was exposed again as Martinez's men lost three of their last four games to drop back out of the top 10.

(P38 W12 D11 L15 F44 A47 Pts 47)
FA Cup: lost 0-4 v West Bromwich Albion (A) in fifth round
League Cup: lost 4-5 on pens v Sheffield United (H) in second round (after 1-1aet)
Manager: vacant Top scorer: Diafra Sakho (12)
It is easy to forget now that, on Christmas Day, West Ham United sat fourth in the table and looked set for an unexpected tilt at the European places. Manager Sam Allardyce appeared to have bowed to his owners' wishes and produced a more pacy and attacking side. But successive festive defeats to Chelsea and Arsenal were the beginnings of a run of just three wins - all at home - in the league to the end of the season. Those three wins, against Sunderland and relegated pair Burnley and Hull City - and just 16 points from the last 21 games - was relegation form and manager Sam Allardyce, already on that warning from the owners, has unsurprisingly not had his contract renewed. Whoever takes over - former Hammer, Croatian Slaven Bilic, is the current odds-on favourite - will find the raw materials of a top-half side. First, though, the club needs awakening from its stupor ahead of what is expected to be a last season at the Boleyn Ground prior to a controversial move to the Olympic Stadium.  

13 WEST BROMWICH ALBION (P38 W11 D11 L16 F38 A51 Pts 44)
FA Cup: lost 0-2 v Aston Villa (A) in QF
League Cup: lost 1-2 v AFC Bournemouth (A) in fourth round
Manager: Tony Pulis (since January 2015) Top scorer: Saido Berahino (20)
Tony Pulis was at it again this season, this time rescuing West Bromwich Albion from a dangerous slide under the unfancied Alan Irvine towards the bottom three. Pulis, who maintains a proud record of having never been relegated as a manager, officially took over Albion on New Year's Day with West Brom outside of the relegation zone in 16th, but having taken just four points out of the previous 27. Welshman Pulis, however, oversaw only six defeats from the final 18 games and the Baggies easily secured a sixth successive top flight season for the first time since the 1980s. Still, there is plenty of room for improvement - even under Pulis, West Brom failed to win consecutive league games. Meanwhile, certain results and performances - such as the two defeats to Aston Villa inside four days and the 4-1 home reverse to Queens Park Rangers - left a lot to be desired. Against that, the landmark second successive win at Old Trafford was undoubtedly the highlight of the Baggies' recovery.

14 LEICESTER CITY (P38 W11 D8 L19 F46 A55 Pts 41)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Aston Villa (A) in fifth round
League Cup: lost 0-1 v Shrewsbury Town (H) in second round
Manager: Nigel Pearson (since November 2011) Top scorer: Leonardo Ulloa (13)
Leicester City left it late to start playing - but, boy, could the Foxes play well when they finally got around to it. An encouraging start saw two points gained at Everton and Arsenal, an away win at Stoke City, and a brilliant comeback to defeat Manchester United 5-3 at the King Power Stadium. But there followed an autumn of discontent with just two points gained from the next 39 to leave Leicester bottom and stranded at Christmas. A mini-revival brought seven points out of nine either side of the New Year - but another winless run and two points out of 24 left Nigel Pearson's men seven points adrift of safety. Pearson too was making some unfortunate headlines after a scuffle with Crystal Palace's James McArthur in February and an unseemly "ostrich" tirade against a journalist in April. The latter incident, though, came after Leicester's only defeat in their last nine games, and that was against champions Chelsea. Seven of those nine matches were wins and thus City remarkably picked up more than half of their total points in the two months from Easter until the end of the season.
15 NEWCASTLE UNITED (P38 W10 D9 L19 F40 A63 Pts 39)
FA Cup: lost 0-1 v Leicester City (A) in third round
League Cup: lost 0-4 v Tottenham Hotspur (A) in QF
Manager: John Carver (interim since January 2015) Top scorer: Papiss Cisse (11)
Newcastle United just about got away with it then, earning a misleadingly safe-looking 15th-placed finish with victory on the last day against a disinterested West Ham United team. On New Year's Day, the Magpies had sat safely in mid-table on 27 points, thanks primarily to a brilliant run of six successive league wins in October and November. But, after the turn of the year, the Magpies contrived to taste victory just three more times. Alan Pardew, unwanted by the fans and belatedly disillusioned by the restraints put on him by owner Mike Ashley, left for the bright lights of London - and, having dallied over appointing a replacement and done nothing in the transfer market to strengthen a porous defence, the Newcastle board simply gritted its teeth and kept faith with caretaker coach John Carver. The situation became more and more farcical as a club-record sequence of eight consecutive Premier League defeats culminated in a 3-0 thrashing at Leicester City in which United ended up with nine-men. Then-Derby manager Steve McClaren was hastily approached before his rejection left Newcastle basically hoping just one more half-decent performance would emerge out of nowhere. It did - and now McClaren is on the verge of being appointed after all. While hardly inspirational, much more depends on how much Ashley is willing to spend on a threadbare squad whose confidence has been well and truly shattered.

16 SUNDERLAND (P38 W7 D17 L14 F31 A53 Pts 38)
FA Cup: lost 0-2 v Bradford City (A) in fifth round
League Cup: lost 1-2 v Stoke City (H) in third round
Manager: Dick Advocaat (since March 2015) Top scorers: Connor Wickham, Jordi Gomez (6)
Sunderland pulled off another dramatic survival to ensure a ninth consecutive top flight season, their best run since the 1950s - but the Black Cats are running out of lives after a third successive relegation dog-fight. Last season's dramatic escape included wins at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford - and this, along with a derby double and a first Cup final appearance since 1992, gave Gus Poyet a fair bit of credit with supporters heading into 2014-15. A fourth successive win over Newcastle United followed in December - but this was only Sunderland's third win of a season full of draws - and, when the draws started turning more regularly into defeats, yet another mid-season change of manager was required. A 4-0 home defeat to Aston Villa proved to be final straw and Poyet was replaced by Dick Advocaat. The Dutchman began with yet another Sunderland win over Newcastle and, after further wins over Southampton and Everton away, a 0-0 draw at the Emirates against Arsenal guaranteed Premier League status with a game to go. Advocaat initially turned down the chance to stay on - and so Sunderland appeared to be heading for the managerial merry-go-round once again - but the experienced coach has now agreed to sign a rolling one-year extension.  

17 ASTON VILLA (P38 W10 D8 L20 F31 A57 Pts 38)
FA Cup: lost 0-4 v Arsenal in Final at Wembley
League Cup: lost 0-1 v Leyton Orient (H) in second round
Manager: Tim Sherwood (since February 2015) Top scorer: Christian Benteke (15)
The late-season resurgence under Tim Sherwood ground to a dramatic halt on the big stage as Aston Villa lost 4-0 to Arsenal in the FA Cup Final. At least Sherwood can take some credit for guiding Villa there in the first place, beating local rivals Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion on the way, before a 2-1 shock of Liverpool in the semi final. In the league too, Sherwood took over with the club in a perilous state, in the bottom three after a winless run of 10 league games in which they had scored just two goals. Indeed, Villa's goals record had become something of an embarrassment with the team having scored just 13 league goals in 27 games at the end of February. But, unlike his predecessor Paul Lambert, Sherwood was able to get the best out of Christian Benteke and wins over West Brom, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and West Ham United were able to secure survival - before a thrashing at the hands of Southampton, a home defeat to Burnley, and the Cup Final mauling left Sherwood under no illusions just how tough it will be to make Villa properly competitive once again. 

(R) 18 HULL CITY (P38 W8 D11 L19 F33 A51 Pts 35)
FA Cup: lost 0-2 v Arsenal (A) in third round
League Cup: lost 2-3 v West Bromwich Albion (A) in third round
Europe: lost on away goals after 2-2 on agg v Lokeren (0-1a, 2-1h) in UEL qualifying playoff Manager: Steve Bruce (since June 2012) Top scorer: Nikica Jelavic (8)
From Wembley in the Cup Final last year to relegation this year - it would be incorrect to describe Hull City's last 12 months as being like a rollercoaster, as it has generally just been one big dip. The Tigers' season actually began on the last day of July last year with a UEFA Europa League qualifier - but defeat in the final qualifying round meant that they did not even make it into the group stage. Then, after a reasonable enough start, a winless run of 10 league games plunged Hull into a relegation scrap from which they never again escaped. Ultimately, a 1-0 defeat to relegated Burnley on the third-last weekend of the season proved to be the difference with the creditable point in a 0-0 draw against Manchester United on the last day not enough for survival. A lack of goals has haunted Hull in all four of their Premier League campaigns to date - and, as such, it was no surprise to see this latest top division adventure end just like the last one - with relegation in the second season. 

(R) 19 BURNLEY (P38 W7 D12 L19 F28 A53 Pts 33)
FA Cup: lost 2-4 v Tottenham Hotspur (A) in third round replay (after 1-1h)
League Cup: lost 0-1 v Sheffield Wednesday (H) in second round
Manager: Sean Dyche (since October 2012) Top scorer: Danny Ings (11)
Burnley battled hard for much of the season but badly ran out of steam in the vital last few weeks. A worrying start brought only four points, all from draws, in the first 10 games - but the Clarets rallied to win four and draw four of their next 11. Into the New Year, Dyche's men found it tougher again - and, indeed, the Lancastrians won just three more times all season. Striker Danny Ings enhanced his reputation by scoring 11 of Burnley's paltry total of 28 - but, when the 22-year-old hit his own personal drought, no one else took up the slack. Burnley scored some impressive results across the season as a whole - with draws away at Chelsea and Manchester City, and a superb 1-0 home win over City in March. Nevertheless, George Boyd's winner was one of only three goals which Burnley scored in their last 12 games - and, though the other two also brought 1-0 wins, away against Hull City and Aston Villa in May, by then it was already too late.  

(R) 20 QUEENS PARK RANGERS (P38 W8 D6 L24 F42 A73 Pts 30) 
FA Cup: lost 0-3 v Sheffield United (H) in third round
League Cup: lost 0-1 v Burton Albion (A) in second round
Manager: Chris Ramsey (since February 2015) Top scorer: Charlie Austin (18)
A second bottom-placed finish out of three seasons for Queens Park Rangers then - despite the efforts of Charlie Austin who, single-handedly at times, did his best to keep the Hoops in the top flight. Thanks to Austin, Rangers won twice as many games as last time and scored more goals - but they also contrived to lose more often and concede more often, leaking 77 in all competitions. It was not as if the warning signs were not there - consecutive 4-0 away defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United came as early as September - but decent home form kept QPR outside the bottom three on Christmas Day. By the time Harry Redknapp abdicated in early February, though, the west London club were already back in trouble - and, except for one fine day at West Bromwich Albion, caretaker Chris Ramsey never looked like turning it around. Appropriately, the season ended with two away thrashings - 6-0 at Manchester City and, less forgivably, 5-1 at Leicester City. Now Ramsey himself has been tasked with picking up the pieces in the Championship, presumably without Austin.

Premier League
Manchester City
Champions League
Arsenal, Manchester United
Europa League
Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Southampton, West Ham United
Hull City, Burnley, Queens Park Rangers

AFC Bournemouth
Playoff winners
Norwich City (beat Middlesbrough 2-0 in the Final)
Millwall, Wigan Athletic, Blackpool

League One
Bristol City
Milton Keynes Dons
Playoff winners
Preston North End (beat Swindon Town 4-0 in the Final)
Notts County, Crawley Town, Leyton Orient, Yeovil Town

League Two
Burton Albion
Shrewsbury Town
Also promoted
Playoff winners
Southend United (beat Wycombe Wanderers 7-6 on pens in the Final, after 1-1aet)
Cheltenham Town, Tranmere Rovers

Conference Premier
Playoff winners
Bristol Rovers (beat Grimsby Town 5-3 on pens in the Final, after 1-1aet)
Alfreton Town, Dartford, AFC Telford United, Nuneaton Town

Conference North
Playoff winners
Guiseley (beat Chorley (A) 3-2 in the Final)
Colwyn Bay, Leamington, Hyde

Conference South
Playoff winners
Boreham Wood (beat Whitehawk (H) 2-1 in the Final)
Relegation AFC Farnborough, Staines Town

Domestic Cup Finals
All matches played at Wembley
FA Cup Final
Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa
League Cup Final
Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur
FA Community Shield
Arsenal 3-0 Manchester City
Johnstone's Paint Trophy
Bristol City 2-0 Walsall
FA Trophy
North Ferriby United 3-3 Wrexham (after extra time). North Ferriby United won 5-4 on pens
FA Vase
North Shields 2-1 Glossop North End

Premier League
Europa League
Aberdeen, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, St Johnstone
St Mirren

Runners-up (promoted)

League One
Runners-up (not promoted)
Stirling Albion

League Two
Albion Rovers
Runners-up (not promoted)
Queen's Park

Domestic Cup Finals
FA Cup Final
Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2-1 Falkirk
League Cup Final
Celtic 2-0 Dundee United
Challenge Cup Final
Livingston 4-0 Alloa Athletic

Welsh Premier League
The New Saints
Europa League
Bala Town (runners-up), Airbus UK Broughton (third), Aberystwyth Town (Cup runners-up), Newtown (playoff winners)
Cefn Druids, Prestatyn Town

NIFL Premiership
Europa League
Linfield (runners-up), Glenavon (third), Glentoran (cup winners)

Domestic Cup Finals
Welsh FA Cup Final
The New Saints 2-0 Newtown
Welsh League Cup Final The New Saints 3-0 Bala Town
IFA Cup Final Glentoran 1-0 Portadown
Northern Irish League Cup Final
Cliftonville 3-2 Ballymena United

UEFA Finals
Champions League
Barcelona (Spa) 3-1 Juventus (Ita) in Berlin
Europa League
Sevilla (Spa) 3-2 Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukr) in Warsaw
Super Cup
Real Madrid (Spa) 2-0 Sevilla (Spa) in Cardiff

Major European League champions
Bayern Munich
Paris Saint-Germain
PSV Eindhoven
Club Brugge

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Another Blatter coronation

Two-thirds majority (139 votes) required in first round of voting. Simple majority required (105 votes) required in the second round of voting.

Sepp Blatter (SUI)133-
Prince Ali bin Hussein (JOR) 73withdrew

BELEAGUERED FIFA president Sepp Blatter defied widespread condemnation and corruption allegations to secure a fifth successive term at the top of world football.

Blatter took 133 of the available 209 votes in the first round of voting in the election at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich. His sole opponent, Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, received 73 while three members abstained.

Technically, by the rules, Blatter's first round total was not actually enough for him to win outright as a two-thirds majority (139) was required.

But, on hearing of his 60-vote deficit - and with no third party from which to attract votes - Prince Ali sensibly prevented a completely pointless second vote by officially withdrawing.

Blatter was therefore the winner after one round by default - and, at least in this case, the ridiculous farce had not been extended.

Of course, the Swiss - while seemingly acknowledging his organisation was facing some difficulties - somehow considered the result to be a vindication of his presidency.

He said: "I thank you. You have accepted me for the next 4 years. I will be in command of this boat of FIFA. We will bring it back of shore."

It is a metaphor he has used before. At his last election in 2011, he said: "Our ship is in troubled waters and I am the captain weathering the storm. This is a difficult period for FIFA and I admit that readily.

"Not only is the pyramid shaking but our ship has drawn some water."

But, at that election too, the now 79-year-old Swiss had promised that his fourth term would be his last.

Nevertheless, the u-turn over the length of Blatter's reign is probably one of the least of the alleged crimes committed by FIFA members following a frankly extraordinary week.

On Wednesday, US prosecutors, backed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), indicted 14 FIFA officials and associates, with seven arrested in a dawn raid at their upmarket hotel in Zurich.

They are accused of bribery, racketeering and money-laundering involving tens of millions of dollars since 1991.

Meanwhile, Swiss authorities have launched a separate criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar.

Instead of action only being taken by legal representatives, though, it is now surely also time for people inside football to stand up and defend themselves.

Incredible statistics show 1,200 migrant workers have already died building Qatar's World Cup stadia - there are still provisionally seven years ago. Quite simply, enough is enough.

Undoubtedly, the greatest hope lies with UEFA - ignoring the fact that, in the past, it has hardly been a bastion of good governance either.

Nevertheless, a European boycott of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups now looks as if it is a real possibility - and, for the good of football, it actually needs to happen.

Other major and developing countries - Argentina, perhaps Brazil, and certainly United States and Australia - could join the likes of Germany, Italy, France and England in a competitive 'rebel' tournament.

After all, only then will the most important players in this FIFA farrago - the huge corporate sponsors - actually sit up and take notice.

Ultimately then the aim would be to have a new world governing body still including countries from Africa and Asia.

Elitist isolationism - while a valid UEFA-led tactic in the short-term to put pressure on FIFA - will simply end up breeding yet more resentment in the developing football world.

The argument works the other way too - as, eventually, the lack of African and Asian players involved would make football a duller sport overall.

Nevertheless, in any new arrangement, the weight of votes in the presidential election would need to be changed and directly connected to an improved ranking system.

This would bring to an end the crazy current situation in which dozens of African and Asian countries which have never got close to qualifying for the World Cup finals can out-vote those with the strongest football traditions.

Ideally, it would also then encourage the developing nations to invest their money in the right areas.

For instance, if Qatar or any other footballing backwaters wanted to have more influence in football's new world order, they would need to improve their training facilities and infrastructure.

This would logically produce a better and more consistent team - and up the rankings they would surely go thus earning more influence in an entirely valid way.

Perhaps all that sounds like a pipe-dream - but one thing is for sure: the status quo cannot continue.

Blatter, elected unopposed in 2007 and 2011, still barely faced a challenge this time. One contender, former Portugal star Luis Figo summed up the situation when pulling out of the race earlier this week.

Figo said: "This process is anything but an election. This process is a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man - something I refuse to go along with."

And, in the end, it was indeed as easy as ABC. This was Another Blatter Coronation.

At the same time, it seems thankfully as if the endgame is approaching. For now, though, it remains unclear whether Blatter - and FIFA - will be brought down by the FBI, by a UEFA-led boycott, or by a combination of the two.

Regardless, it would be simply incredible if he was still in his post by the end of this term. Something must and will happen.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Eurovision 2015: Swing and a miss

BRITISH hopes of reversing their recent wretched Eurovision form were dealt a blow by an early placing in the running order.

Electro swing duet Electro Velvet will be fifth on stage in Vienna as they seek to claim a first title in the contest for the United Kingdom since Katrina & The Waves triumphed in 1997.

But, by the time the show is over tonight, Electro Velvet - namely Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas - could well have joined the likes of Javine Hylton, Daz Sampson, Scooch, Andy Abraham, and Josh Dubovie as largely forgotten failures.

At least, the duo should avoid the fate of Jemini who scored the infamous nul points in 2003. The bookmakers, though, have little faith in the pair delivering even a top-half performance.

Unfortunately, it is not difficult to see why. Larke is a singer in a Rolling Stones tribute band while Nicholas is a failed contestant from BBC show The Voice.

The choice, which was not open to the public, simply screams of averageness.

Worse, the music itself - though an admirably brave move away from entering another insipid ballad - is too repetitive and probably no better than many a provisional cabaret act.

All in all, the music video (see link 05 below) is probably the best part of it - but Eurovision rules restrict the number of people on stage so it cannot be replicated in all of its glory.

Instead, Sweden and Russia head the betting with wildcard entrants Australia, here to celebrate the 60th anniversary of this illustrious competition, acting as a stalking horse.

That is where the clever money will be - as, for me, this year's British entry is sadly a swing and a miss, albeit a brave one. It would be simply great to be proved wrong, though.

Tune in to BBC One at 8pm to find out.

Click on the links for the official Eurovision videos of each of the songs. Odds supplied by Ladbrokes. See 

CountryArtist - SongOdds
01SloveniaMaraaya - Here For You50/1
02FranceLisa Angell - N'oubliez pas (Don't forget)150/1
03IsraelNadav Guedj - Golden Boy33/1
04EstoniaElina Born & Stig Rästa - Goodbye to Yesterday 20/1
05United KingdomElectro Velvet - Still In Love With You100/1
06ArmeniaGenealogy - Face The Shadow100/1
07LithuaniaMonika Linkytė & Vaidas Baumila - This Time150/1
08SerbiaBojana Stamenov - Beauty Never Lies25/1
09NorwayMørland & Debrah Scarlett - A Monster Like Me25/1
10SwedenMåns Zelmerlöw - Heroes13/8 fav
11CyprusJohn Karayiannis - One Thing I Should Have Done100/1
12AustraliaGuy Sebastian - Tonight Again12/1
13BelgiumLoïc Nottet - Rhythm Inside7/1
14AustriaThe Makemakes - I Am Yours200/1
15GreeceMaria Elena Kyriakou - One Last Breath66/1
16MontenegroKnez - Adio (Goodbye)150/1
17GermanyAnn Sophie - Black Smoke
18PolandMonika Kuszyńska - In the Name of Love250/1
19LatviaAminata - Love Injected33/1
20RomaniaVoltaj - De la capăt (All over Again)100/1
21SpainEdurne - Amanecer (Dawn)50/1
22HungaryBoggie - Wars for Nothing150/1
23GeorgiaNina Sublatti - Warrior66/1
24AzerbaijanElnur Hüseynov - Hour of the Wolf33/1
25RussiaPolina Gagarina - A Million Voices7/2
26AlbaniaElhaida Dani - I'm Alive100/1
27ItalyIl Volo - Grande amore (Great love)10/3


Artist - SongPoints (Douze)
(1)SwedenMåns Zelmerlöw - Heroes365 (12)
(2)RussiaPolina Gagarina - A Million Voices303 (5)
(3)ItalyIl Volo - Grande amore (Great love)292 (9)
(4)BelgiumLoïc Nottet - Rhythm Inside217 (3)
(5)AustraliaGuy Sebastian - Tonight Again196 (2)
(6)LatviaAminata - Love Injected186 (3)
(7)EstoniaElina Born & Stig Rästa - Goodbye to Yesterday 106
(8)NorwayMørland & Debrah Scarlett - A Monster Like Me102
(9)IsraelNadav Guedj - Golden Boy97
(10)SerbiaBojana Stamenov - Beauty Never Lies53 (1)
(11)GeorgiaNina Sublatti - Warrior51
(12)AzerbaijanElnur Hüseynov - Hour of the Wolf49 (1)
(13)MontenegroKnez - Adio (Goodbye)44 (1)
(14)SloveniaMaraaya - Here For You39
(15)RomaniaVoltaj - De la capăt (All over Again)35 (1)
(16)ArmeniaGenealogy - Face The Shadow34 (1)
(17)AlbaniaElhaida Dani - I'm Alive34 (1)
(18)LithuaniaMonika Linkytė & Vaidas Baumila - This Time30
(19)GreeceMaria Elena Kyriakou - One Last Breath23
(20)HungaryBoggie - Wars for Nothing19
(21)SpainEdurne - Amanecer (Dawn)15
(22)CyprusJohn Karayiannis - One Thing I Should Have Done11
(23)PolandMonika Kuszyńska - In the Name of Love10
(24)United KingdomElectro Velvet - Still In Love With You5
(25)FranceLisa Angell - N'oubliez pas (Don't forget)4
(26)AustriaThe Makemakes - I Am Yours0
(27)GermanyAnn Sophie - Black Smoke

Friday, 8 May 2015

Election 2015: Tories take control as Nationalists sweep Scotland

CON36.9% (+0.8%)331 (+24)
LAB30.5% (+1.4%)232 (-26)
SNP4.8% (+3.1%)56 (+50)
LD7.8% (-15.1%)8 (-49)
UKIP12.6% (+9.5%)1 (+1)
GRN3.8% (+2.8%)1 (nc)
PC0.6% (nc)3 (nc)
Others3%18 (nc)
CON majority of 12 seats - Turnout 66.1%

DAVID CAMERON returned to Downing Street for a second term after the Conservatives won a sensational, and largely unforeseen, first majority since 1992.

The Tories won 331 of the 650 seats on a devastating night for Labour - and it was also one which just about completely wiped out the Liberal Democrats.

Unsurprisingly, given the outcome, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg both resigned as party leaders - and Nigel Farage joined them after he failed to win a House of Commons seat for UKIP for a seventh time. 

Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Nationalists' revolution - which began last September during the independence referendum - continued unremittingly.

Nicola Stugeon's party took 56 of the 59 seats available to them with some absolutely stunning victories, and so became easily the third biggest party at Westminster.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander was beaten by 20-year-old student Mhairi Black, while Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy also lost his seat. In Gordon, former SNP leader Alec Salmond returned to Westminster after a five-year absence.

And, eventually, only Edinburgh South for Labour, Orkney & Shetland for the Lib Dems and Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale for the Conservatives escaped the SNP's clutches.

Elsewhere, it was a night of truly historic swings north of the border with Glasgow North East taken on a swing of 39.3%, and Gordon Brown's former seat - Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath - also falling on a swing far in excess of 30%.

But the worst thing about this election for Labour was that the defeats were not confined solely to Scotland. In England and Wales too, Labour fared poorly.

Straight away, a sense of shock filled their camp as the exit poll, released at 10pm on BBC, ITV and Sky, showed the Tories were just short of a majority.

It was totally out of line with the stalemate in the polls throughout the campaign - and was dismissed by several commentators in the election studios.

As time went on, though, it became clear the research had actually underestimated Conservative support and Mr Cameron was set for a majority.

Ultimately, Mr Miliband's party made just 10 direct gains from the Tories, and all-but-one of these were rebuffed by the Tories surprisingly taking Labour seats back in response. It was a hideously depressing night for the left.

The biggest of these shocks was in the Leeds suburb of Morley and Outwood where, as dawn broke, the undoubted Portillo moment of the 2015 election took place.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, so long the right-hand man of Mr Miliband, was defeated by Andrea Jenkyns. The Tories had another unexpected seat on the board.

By then, though, the result only simply served to cap a huge Labour failure which had already become apparent much earlier in the night.

Nuneaton was on Labour's target list and North Warwickshire was the closest Tory-Labour marginal of all. They both again returned a Conservative MP.

Remarkably then, Mr Cameron became the first Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher in 1983 to increase his party's representation following a period of governance.

The same cannot be said for junior coalition partners, the shattered Lib Dems, who lost 49 of their 57 seats after totally collapsing to the Conservatives, Labour and the SNP.

Of course, Mr Clegg's decision to form a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010 can still be considered an eminently sensible and responsible one, given the arithmetic at the time.

But his party's failure thereafter to adhere to high-profile promises on tuition fees and VAT cost them dearly - and a moribund, identity-less campaign was always going to leave a ragtag bunch facing oblivion.

Mr Clegg himself held onto his seat in Sheffield Hallam, after rumours he would not, but other high-profile figures such as Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, and Charles Kennedy all lost out.

In fact, their final representation of just eight MPs is the lowest return by a Liberal party since the 1956 - and it will be a long road back to respectability, if indeed it ever happens at all.

For now, though, a country effectively divided in three parts can only watch on as Mr Cameron sets the agenda.

The reshuffle so far has been nothing of the sort. George Osborne, Theresa May and Philip Hammond all kept their positions of Chancellor, Home Secretary, and Foreign Secretary respectively - and Mr Hammond, in particular, has an interesting few months ahead.

With a relatively small majority, Tory backbenchers will ensure the promised referendum on Europe happens sooner rather than later - and any stalling would spell trouble for Mr Cameron.

Remember, the last Conservative Prime Minister to win a majority, John Major, saw his premiership dominated and ruined by rebellions over Europe and the Maastricht Treaty. Remember too, Mr Major had a majority of 21, nine more than Mr Cameron.

But, while it may not all be plain sailing for the Prime Minister, his remarkable win has now given him clear blue water. Will the good ship Great Britain sink or sail?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Election 2015: The full results

CON36.9% (+0.8%)331 (+24)
LAB30.5% (+1.4%)232 (-26)
SNP4.8% (+3.1%)56 (+50)
LD7.8% (-15.1%)8 (-49)
UKIP12.6% (+9.5%)1 (+1)
GRN3.8% (+2.8%)1 (nc)
PC0.6% (nc)3 (nc)
Others3%18 (nc)
CON majority of 12 - Turnout tbc

EXIT POLL CON short of a majority by 10.
CON 316 LAB 239 SNP 58 LD 10 PC 4 UKIP 2 GRN 2 OTH 19

* First Conservative majority government since 1992.
* Scottish National Party win all-but-three Scottish seats.
* Miliband resigns after devastating defeat.
* Clegg resigns after making his party an irrelevance.
* Farage resigns after failing in South Thanet for UKIP.

Berwick-upon-Tweed - Hexham - Stockton South
Bishop Auckland - Blaydon - Blyth Valley - Darlington - City of Durham - North Durham - North West Durham - Easington - Gateshead - Hartlepool - Houghton & Sunderland South - Jarrow - Middlesbrough - Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland - Newcastle upon Tyne Central - Newcastle upon Tyne East - Newcastle upon Tyne North - Sedgefield - South Shields - Stockton North - Sunderland Central - Tynemouth - North Tyneside - Redcar - Wansbeck - Washington & Sunderland West

Altrincham & Sale West - Blackpool North & Cleveleys - Bolton West - Bury North - Carlisle - Cheadle - Congleton - Crewe & Nantwich - Eddisbury - Fylde - Hazel Grove - Macclesfield - Morecambe & Lunesdale - Pendle - Penrith & The Border - Ribble Valley - Rossendale & Darwen - South Ribble - Tatton - Warrington South - Weaver Vale - Wyre & Preston North
Ashton Under Lyne - Barrow & Furness - Birkenhead - Blackburn - Blackley & Broughton - Blackpool South - Bolton North East - Bolton South East - Bootle - Burnley - Bury South - City of Chester - Chorley - Copeland - Denton & Reddish - Ellesmere Port & Neston - Garston & Halewood - Halton - Heywood & Middleton - Hyndburn - Knowsley - Lancashire West - Lancaster & Fleetwood - Leigh - Liverpool Riverside - Liverpool Walton - Liverpool Wavertree - Liverpool West Derby - Makerfield - Manchester Central - Manchester Gorton - Manchester Withington - Oldham East & Saddleworth - Oldham West & Royton - Preston - Rochdale - St Helens North - St Helens South & Whiston - Salford & Eccles - Sefton Central - Stalybridge & Hyde - Stockport - Stretford & Urmston - Wallasey - Warrington North - Wigan - Wirral South - Wirral West - Workington - Worsley & Eccles South - Wythenshawe & Sale East
Liberal Democrats
Southport - Westmorland & Lonsdale

Beverley & Holderness - Brigg & Goole - Calder Valley - Cleethorpes - Colne Valley - Elmet & Rothwell - Haltemprice & Howden - Harrogate & Knaresborough - Keighley - Morley & Outwood - Pudsey - Richmond - Scarborough & Whitby - Selby & Ainsty - Shipley - Skipton & Ripon - Thirsk & Malton - York Outer - East Yorkshire
Barnsley Central - Barnsley East - Batley & Spen - Bradford East - Bradford South - Bradford West - Dewsbury - Don Valley - Doncaster Central - Doncaster North - Great Grimsby - Halifax - Hemsworth - Huddersfield - Kingston-upon-Hull East - Kingston-upon-Hull North - Kingston-upon-Hull West & Hessle - Leeds Central - Leeds East - Leeds North East - Leeds West - Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford - Penistone & Stocksbrige - Rother Valley - Rotherham - Scunthorpe - Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough - Sheffield Central - Sheffield Heeley - Sheffield South East - Wakefield - Wentworth & Dearne - York Central
Liberal Democrats
Leeds North West - Sheffield Hallam

Amber Valley - Boston & Skegness - Bosworth - Broxtowe - Charnwood - Corby - Daventry - Derby North - Derbyshire Dales - Mid Derbyshire - South Derbyshire - Erewash - Gainsborough - Grantham & Stamford - Harborough - High Peak - Kettering - North West Leicestershire - South Leicestershire - Lincoln - Loughborough - Louth & Horncastle - Newark - Northampton North - Northampton South - South Northamptonshire - Rushcliffe - Rutland & Melton - Sherwood - Sleaford & North Hykeham - South Holland & The Deepings - Wellingborough
Ashfield - Bassetlaw - Bolsover - Chesterfield - Derby South - North East Derbyshire - Gedling - Leicester East - Leicester South - Leicester West - Mansfield - Nottingham East - Nottingham North - Nottingham South

Aldridge-Brownhills - Bromsgrove - Burton - Cannock Chase - Dudley South - Halesowen & Rowley Regis - Hereford & South Herefordshire - North Herefordshire - Kenilworth & Southam - Lichfield - Ludlow - Meriden - Nuneaton - Redditch - Rugby - Shrewsbury & Atcham - North Shropshire - Solihull - Stafford - Staffordshire Moorlands - South Staffordshire - Stone - Stourbridge - Stratford-on-Avon - Sutton Coldfield - Tamworth - Telford - Warwick & Leamington - North Warwickshire - Worcester - Mid Worcestershire 
Birmingham Edgbaston - Birmingham Erdington - Birmingham Hall Green - Birmingham Hodge Hill - Birmingham Ladywood - Birmingham Northfield - Birmingham Perry Barr - Birmingham Selly Oak - Birmingham Yardley - Coventry North East - Coventry North West - Coventry South - Dudley North - Newcastle-under-Lyme - Stoke-on-Trent Central - Stoke-on-Trent North - Stoke-on-Trent South - Walsall North - Walsall South - Warley - West Bromwich East - West Bromwich West - Wolverhampton North East - Wolverhampton South East - Wolverhampton South West
Basildon & Billericay - South Basildon & East Thurrock - Bedford - Mid Bedfordshire - North East Bedfordshire - South West Bedfordshire - Braintree - Brentwood & Ongar - Broadland - Broxbourne - Bury St Edmunds - North East Cambridgeshire - North West Cambridgeshire - South Cambridgeshire - South East Cambridgeshire - Castle Point - Chelmsford - Colchester - Epping Forest - Great Yarmouth - Harlow - Harwich & North Essex - Hemel Hempstead - Hertford & Stortford - North East Hertfordshire - South West Hertfordshire - Hertsmere - Hitchin & Harpenden - Huntingdon - Ipswich - Maldon - Mid Norfolk - North West Norfolk - South Norfolk - South West Norfolk - Norwich North - Peterborough - Rayleigh & Wickford - Rochford & Southend East - Saffron Walden - St Albans - Southend West - Stevenage - Central Suffolk & Ipswich North - Suffolk Coastal - South Suffolk - West Suffolk - Thurrock - Watford - Waveney - Welwyn Hatfield - Witham
Cambridge - Luton North - Luton South - Norwich South
Liberal Democrats 
North Norfolk

Aldershot - Arundel & South Downs - Ashford - Aylesbury - Banbury - Basingstoke - Beaconsfield - Bexhill & Battle - Bognor Regis & Littlehampton - Bracknell - Brighton Kemptown - Canterbury - Chatham & Aylesford - Chesham & Amersham - Chichester - Crawley - Dartford - Dover - Eastbourne - Eastleigh - Epsom & Ewell - Esher & Walton - Fareham - Faversham & Mid Kent - Folkestone & Hythe - Gillingham & Rainham - Gosport - Gravesham - Guildford - East Hampshire - North East Hampshire - North West Hampshire - Hastings & Rye - Havant - Henley - Horsham - Isle of Wight - Lewes - Maidenhead - Maidstone & The Weald - Meon Valley - Milton Keynes North - Milton Keynes South - Mole Valley - New Forest East - New Forest West - Newbury - Oxford West & Abingdon - Portsmouth North - Portsmouth South - Reading East - Reading West - Reigate - Rochester & Strood - Romsey & Southampton North - Runnymede & Weybridge - Sevenoaks - Sittingbourne & Sheppey - Southampton Itchen - Spelthorne - East Surrey - Surrey Heath - South West Surrey - Mid Sussex - North Thanet - South Thanet - Tonbridge & Malling - Tunbridge Wells - Wantage - Wealden - Winchester - Windsor - Witney - Woking - Wokingham - Worthing East & Shoreham - Worthing West - Wycombe
Hove - Oxford East - Slough - Southampton Test
Brighton Pavilion
Other (speaker)

Battersea - Beckenham - Bexleyheath & Crayford - Bromley & Chislehurst - Chelsea & Fulham - Chingford & Woodford Green - Chipping Barnet - Cities of London & Westminster - Croydon Central - Croydon South - Enfield Southgate - Finchley & Golders Green - Harrow East - Hendon - Hornchurch & Upminster - Kensington - Kingston & Surbiton - Old Bexley & Sidcup - Orpington - Putney - Richmond Park - Romford - Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner - Sutton & Cheam - Twickenham - Uxbridge & Ruislip South - Wimbledon
Barking - Bermondsey & Old Southwark - Bethnal Green & Bow - Brentford & Isleworth - Brent Central - Brent North - Camberwell & Peckham - Croydon North - Dagenham & Rainham - Dulwich & West Norwood - Ealing Central & Acton - Ealing North - Ealing Southall - East Ham - Edmonton - Eltham - Enfield North - Erith & Thamesmead - Feltham & Heston - Greenwich & Woolwich - Hackney North & Stoke Newington - Hackney South & Shoreditch - Hammersmith - Hampstead & Kilburn - Harrow West - Hayes & Harlington - Holborn & St Pancras - Hornsey & Wood Green - Ilford North - Ilford South - Islington North - Islington South & Finsbury - Lewisham Deptford - Lewisham East - Lewisham West & Penge - Leyton & Wantstead - Mitcham & Morden - Poplar & Limehouse - Streatham - Tooting - Tottenham - Vauxhall - Walthamstow - West Ham - Westminster North 
Liberal Democrats
Carshalton & Wallington

Bath - Bournemouth East - Bournemouth West - Bridgwater & Somerset West - Bristol North West - Camborne & Redruth - Cheltenham - Chippenham - Christchurch - North Cornwall - South East Cornwall - The Cotswolds - Devizes - Central Devon - East Devon - North Devon - South West Devon - West Devon and Torridge - Mid Dorset and North Poole - North Dorset - South Dorset - West Dorset - Filton & Bradley Stoke - Forest of Dean - Gloucester - Kingswood - Newton Abbot - Plymouth Moor View - Plymouth Sutton & Devonport - Poole - St Austell & Newquay - St Ives - Salisbury - North Somerset - North East Somerset - Somerton & Frome - Stroud - North Swindon - South Swindon - Taunton Deane - Tewkesbury - Thornbury & Yate - Tiverton & Honiton - Torbay - Totnes - Truro & Falmouth - Wells - Weston-Super-Mare - North Wiltshire - South West Wiltshire - Yeovil  
Bristol East - Bristol South - Bristol West - Exeter

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale
Edinburgh South
Scottish National Party
Aberdeen North - Aberdeen South - Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine - Airdree & Shotts - Angus - Argyll & Bute - Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock - Ayrshire Central - Ayrshire North & Arran - Banff & Buchan - Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk - Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross - Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill - Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East - Dumfries & Galloway - East Dunbartonshire - West Dunbartonshire - Dundee East - Dundee West - Dunfermline & West Fife - East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow - East Lothian - Edinburgh East - Edinburgh North & Leith - Edinburgh South West - Edinburgh West - Falkirk - North East Fife - Glasgow Central - Glasgow East - Glasgow North - Glasgow North East - Glasgow North West - Glasgow South - Glasgow South West - Glenrothes - Gordon - Inverclyde - Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey - Kilmarnock & Loudoun - Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath - Lanark & Hamilton East - Linlithgow & Falkirk East - Livingston - Midlothian - Moray - Motherwell & Wishaw - Na h-Eileanan an lar - Ochil & South Perthshire - Paisley & Renfrewshire North - Paisley & Renfrewshire South - Perth & North Perthshire - East Renfewshire - Ross, Sky & Lochaber - Rutherglen & Hamilton West - Stirling 
Liberal Democrats
Orkney & Shetland

Aberconwy - Brecon & Radnorshire - Cardiff North - Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire - Clwyd West - Gower - Monmouth - Montgomeryshire - Preseli Pembrokeshire - Vale of Clwyd - Vale of Glamorgan
Aberavon - Alyn & Deeside - Blaenau Gwent - Bridgend - Caerphilly - Cardiff Central - Cardiff South & Penarth - Cardiff West - Clwyd South - Cynon Valley - Delyn - Islwyn - Llanelli - Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney - Neath - Newport East - Newport West - Ogmore - Pontypridd - Rhondda - Swansea East - Swansea West - Torfaen - Wrexham - Ynys Mon
Liberal Democrats
Plaid Cymru
Arfon - Carmarthen East & Dinefwr - Dwyfor Meirionnydd  

Democratic Unionist
Belfast East - Belfast North - East Antrim - East Londonderry - Lagan Valley - North Antrim - Strangford - Upper Bann
Ulster Unionist
Fermanagh & South Tyrone - South Antrim
Sinn Fein
Belfast West - Mid Ulster - Newry & Armagh - West Tyrone
Social Democratic and Labour Party
Belfast South - Foyle - South Down
North Down

Seats in bold changed hands