History is littered with unlikely partnerships, whether it be the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 that brought together the extreme right and the far left, or the unlikely coalition of partners that now tackle ISIS in the Middle East, or even a Tory-Lib Dem coalition that has endured for five years. Political circumstances have often thrown together unusual marriages of convenience. The 2015 UK General Election will undoubtedly witness such a coalition of interests emerge once again.
Due to the unpredictability and openness of British politics, I and legions of others find ourselves, perhaps erroneously so, extremely enthusiastic about the forthcoming general election. It provides a heightened sense of an open and exhilarating election that offers the possibility of real change and provides a multi-party system that has long been desired. With the days of the election countdown now under 50, pollsters have been frantically speculating as to what kind of government this election will provide.
So what are the key aspects of this election? I would suggest there are two: the drift away from a two or three party system; and Scotland. The Independence Referendum saw Scottish politics flourish; many figures across the established parties sneered that the referendum was a defeat for alternative politics. That has proved ignorant! It has begun an awakening that has been felt further afield than Scotland. Political analysts have all suggested that a transformation is happening – “the old two-party system is fractured if not broken apart. Four parties – five if you count the resurgent Greens – will contest the next election”.
Scotland’s importance therefore relies on the fact that the monopoly of a duopoly is ending, resulting in the likelihood of another hung parliament.
A narrow Labour win seems to be consistent throughout the plethora of polling data; the premier parties are expected to win between 260-280 seats, a long way short of an overall majority target. Even if Labour joined with the ailing Liberals, a majority may prove difficult. YouGov analyst, Peter Kellner considers that “in recent months it has looked unlikely that either Labour or the Conservatives would win an overall majority next year. There is now a real chance that neither will have a secure majority, even in coalition with the Liberal Democrats”.
Furthermore, Scotland will also determine whether Labour can become the largest party, as its dominance in Scotland is severely under threat. Seats north of the border have been assured for Labour since Thatcher as sure as night following day.
However, several differing polls have suggested the SNP could win up to and above 50 seats. Lord Ashcroft has conducted major polling exercises in Scotland, and his March polling, once extrapolated, predicted 56 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies are set to be represented by the SNP.
Seats currently held by established British political stalwarts such as Gordon Brown and Charles Kennedy are set to turn to the SNP.
Although those figures are unlikely to become reality, the sense I gather here in Scotland is that the SNP will make huge gains, with Scotland bucking the model found elsewhere in the UK. The nationalists here are becoming increasingly confident that they will have increased power in Westminster come May. This is spilling over to the voters, who have already embraced the SNP heavily following the referendum.
Contrastingly to the SNP fortunes you find the Liberal Democrats, who have suffered terribly in government! The Ashcroft national poll averages their popularity at around 8%, behind UKIP and the Greens. This figure is just a third of what it was entering the 2010 election, where they won 57 seats. Extrapolating these new figures, you can expect them to struggle to win 20 seats. Therefore, with low estimates suggesting the SNP will capture over 20, it’s plausible that the SNP will be Britain’s third largest party.
So will this SNP surge be a hammer blow for Labour? Yes and no; the certain loss of seats north of the border can’t be downplayed. Polls have Labour and the Conservatives only a few points apart- some even have them neck and neck- meaning that the seats they traditionally won in Scotland would have seen them comfortably ahead. This leaves Miliband’s hopes of claiming the 326 seats necessary for an overall majority in tatters.
After much goading, Ed Miliband stated – “Labour will not go into coalition government with the SNP. There will be no SNP ministers in any government I lead“.
Nevertheless, although it may not be a formal coalition, Labour has to do a deal with the SNP. A UKIP and Labour deal is implausible, and in reality, due to UKIP’s surge halting, not really a possibility in the first place. Farage’s potential success is diminishing and their prospects are restricted – “most of the big election prediction models think UKIP MPs won’t reach double figures, even with a significant amount of national support”. The Greens, again despite more buoyance, aren’t expected to take anywhere near the number of seats the SNP will. The nationalists look certain to become the kingmaker.
Electoral Calculus has suggested that “the SNP would be an essential part of any two-party coalition”, while SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon stated – “the SNP will never put the Tories into government”. Therefore in a hung parliament a Labour-SNP partnership, likely on a deal by deal basis will become pertinent as they both yearn to accomplish their biggest commonality, to avoid another Tory government.
Although this would anger many in England especially, a partnership in a hung parliament with scores of SNP seats in the Commons is rational. Any government, especially a minority one facing a sizable Tory opposition on top of a disgruntled and powerful SNP bloc, will continually be at Labour’s determent.