Unless you’ve been inhabiting a cave over the past month (granted, not an unappealing notion), then what is scheduled to take place this coming Thursday won’t have escaped your attention. Whether or not you intend to exercise your democratic right, the fact remains that it will happen with or without you. With this in mind, I’d be curious to hear what you actually believe the outcome will be.
I ask not what you want to happen, but what you think will happen. If you can put partisan concerns to one side just this once and listen to your head rather than your heart, it’d be interesting to see if there’s a common consensus amongst commentators.
Personally, I think whoever grabs the most seats may well go it alone and eschew coalition. As much as the Lib Dems fancy themselves as kingmakers and holders of the balance of power, I have a feeling they won’t retain or win enough seats to even be in that position this time round. If either Labour or the Tories are as little as three or four seats ahead, I reckon they’ll have a crack at it with a tiny majority. It’s happened before, of course; Wilson and Callaghan kept a Labour Government in power for five years with the slimmest of majorities in the 1970s, even as successive by-election losses whittled down those majorities even further, leaving them in a perpetual state of imminent collapse. It’s far-from ideal, but it’s clear this would be the preferable option for the two largest parties.
Despite his denials, Miliband could well do a few deals with the SNP on the quiet just to give him breathing space, but I don’t see any form of official partnership being on the cards. Both he and Cameron are desperate to govern in their own right, however hard the road ahead will be without the cushion of coalition. Depending on how the smaller parties perform, Miliband could concoct a rough agreement of sorts with the Lib Dems and the Greens; and Cameron could well do likewise with the Lib Dems and UKIP. And both may court favour with the DUP. Beyond that, I think the two leaders would consciously avoid any close ties with those that generate toxic nationalism.
None of that is necessarily what I want to happen, but I’ve a feeling it’s what will happen. How about you?