The election is too close to call according to all the polls. Some give Labour the edge, others the Conservatives but they are united in their view that Labour will be, as near as damn it, wiped out in Scotland by the SNP. The consequent ‘hung’ parliament and the post election horse-trading will leave an unholy mess that we could be stuck with for the next five years under the fixed term parliaments something that I was always dubious about with five as opposed to four year parliaments. The Cabinet Manual, designed to address the hung parliament in 2010, will be dissected and deconstructed to provide justification for why, should the Conservatives form the largest party but do not have an overall majority in the Commons, even with the support of other parties, they should make way for a government led by Ed Miliband and his equally unholy alliance of the ‘progressives’. The problem is, whoever ends up in Number 10, getting any policy through Parliament will be difficult and time-consuming with every vote on every issue contested. That is not a recipe for effective government or good decision-making.
So what will we end up with on 8th May? The Conservatives will end up with 288 seats, the Liberal-Democrats 31 and UKIP 3—I’ve always thought that the polls have underestimated Lib-Dem and UKIP—that would give a 322 seats and that’s not taking account of the Irish parties. In parliamentary terms this would be more messy than in 2010 but would ensure the continuance of a Conservative-led government. In part, this outcome depends on a degree of tactical voting in constituencies where Conservatives and Lib-Dems are the leading parties. You could well argue that there’s little point in the two parties fighting each other in these areas while in constituencies where Labour is the challenger then Conservative and Lib-Dem voters ought to be voting for the candidate more likely to defeat Labour. Labour will end up with 267 seats, SNP 48, Plaid Cymru 4 and Greens 1 or 320 MPs. Labour or SNP voting intentions do not alter the political arithmetic in either current Labour or SNP controlled seats even if they change hands to the other party. The consistent position of the SNP in the polls does not necessarily mean that this will be translated into the large number of seats predicted. In the isolation of the polling booth, people do not always vote as the polls predict.