The UK General Election

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I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m already fed up with hearing about the General Election and, as I write this, we have two more months before polling day. It’s worse than the sight of Christmas decorations in September. On the basis that the ennui can only increase, I’ve decided to post this one entry about the election and then there’ll be radio silence until after the big day.

My guess, at this stage, is that there are a few red herrings (step forward, UKIP) and that the Liberal Democrats might well hold the key to the result. The thinking goes like this.

I can’t see the Conservatives winning a majority of the seats and so the question is whether they will have sufficient seats to govern as a minority government. Although Labour and others have the potential to pick up Tory seats, I still think the performance (or failure to perform) by the Lib Dems has significant potential to impact the number of seats the Conservatives have to their name when the count is over.

I can’t see Labour winning an outright majority either or sufficient seats, by itself, to put together a workable minority government. A coalition with the Lib Dems could be on the cards and I’d have thought that’s more first-choice than this week’s speculation about a coalition with the Scottish National Party. And that brings us back to that conundrum of how the Lib Dems perform. Will Labour + Liberal Democrats = a viable government?

And if that particular combination can’t deliver a viable government, that’s when the SNP could slide into the frame. The potential points of tension have been well-aired, but, Scottish independence (and Trident) aside, Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond aren’t too far apart on the scale of political ideology. Scottish independence is, though, a very large topic to put to one side.

But what strikes me most is that, twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have been considering the outcome of a general election in terms of potential viability of minority government or different combinations to make up a coalition government. As I’ve said in a previous entry, the current reality of UK politics is that voters have moved away from the traditional two (plus one) party system and won’t give a clear mandate to any one party. I can’t yet see when this might change.