Reading Steve Richards in today's Independent, I am struck by however legitimate his argument, he rather misses the point - which as I see it, is this: people, and I mean the electorate, were broadly voting for change. Not outright, 'there you go, have a majority' sort of change but change nevertheless. I suppose his most valid argument is whether people realised that this, ie. a deficit cutting government, is what they were voting for. He's right to say that none of the main parties spelled out in any detail how they would tackle the deficit, although all talked about tough times ahead etc but then manifestos are only ever aspirational, not promises.
I suspect although I have no evidence for this, simply a hunch, that most people read between the lines and had some sense of what was coming. The IFS suggested pre-Election that Labour plans would mean an effective 20% or thereabouts cut to public services if Health and DFID were to be ring-fenced.
Overriding all of this of course, is the issue of our democracy. It's not a true democracy in that everyone has a say in the decisions made - instead we have a form of representative democracy, whereby we elect representatives to make those decisions on our behalf. We do not expect to be consulted about every decision - that's their job (which always bothers me when politicians talk about increasing the number of referendums. Unless it's a constitutional issue, my feeling is that we elected them to make the decisions so get on with it! ).
So although I believe that Steve Richards is right to raise the issue of whether the Coalition has a mandate for the measures they are about to introduce, I disagree with his final analysis. I doubt that any sentient adult who voted at on May 6th could have been unaware that cuts were coming, whoever emerged as the winning party. Furthermore, the general cynicism which greets most pronouncements from politicians of all stripes, leads me to believe that people made up their own minds about what was needed and voted accordingly.
Democracy, eh ? The least worst option when compared with all the others. Someone famous said that once.