By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
Certainties are few and far between in this year’s General Election, but there are two things that can be said with relative comfort; we will have a hung Parliament, and SNP will take the majority, if not all, of Labour’s stronghold seats in Scotland.
It is quite unusual for political parties to be this resigned to a coalition government this early on in an election campaign. Opinion polls suggest a single party winning an overall majority is extremely unlikely. UKIP has eroded the Conservative’s majority, SNP and the Green Party are eating into Labour’s and the resultant political turmoil means no one is feeling that Liberal.
So the election battlegrounds have been drawn on who is most likely to succeed as a coalition rather than a party vs party bout.
SNP could either be the key to parliament or the lock outside Westminster’s doors. The referendum on independence may have returned a ‘No’ vote but it also returned the highest recorded turnout for an election or referendum in the United Kingdom since the introduction of universal suffrage, which means there are 53 political-engaged seats up for grabs.
Polls show that the majority of these are going the way of Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party, which he is well aware of. The former First Minister said Scotland will ‘call the tune’ after general election, adding that the party wouldn’t side with the Tories “because of their track record of hostility to Scottish interests and the total bad faith of David Cameron towards the Scottish people the day after the referendum.”
That makes Labour the obvious coalition partner.
With a great deal of speculation surrounding the matter of a Labour/ SNP coalition Ed Miliband and other senior figures have not yet moved to end speculation, which is poignant, and Cameron has attacked the notion of the coalition with yet more hostility to Scotland, highlighting that the Tories will fight this election battle on the defensive.
Indeed, Tory chairman Lord Baker has gone so far as to suggest a grand coalition between the Conservatives and Labour may be necessary to avoid the SNP holding the balance of power at Westminster, an extraordinary move but not unprecedented.
It goes to show that not only has the electorate resigned themselves to a hung parliament, but parliament has too, which is a dangerous precedent. If our votes are simply viewed as a way of ‘making up the numbers’ then it goes to show that the voice of the electorate is not being heard. Cameron may be playing politics with coalitions, but Miliband could edge towards a majority if he keeps out of that battle and focuses on what really matters to the electorate instead.