I generally know what I’m talking about, but I’m no fortune teller. No matter who you are, you would have to be brave to put a penny on May’s election. How many seats will the Lib Dems lose? Will the SNP actually wipe Labour out in Scotland? Does anyone still trust the Conservatives? What effect will UKIP have? All of these questions seem daunting- some of them may provoke arguments for years after the election- but I am going to try and come up with a reasonable prediction.
Firstly, the Lib Dems will not face the wipe out many expect. Last Tuesday, I had a talk with Tim Farron after his speech at Gerald Vernon Jackson’s formal adoption as candidate in Portsmouth South. Over the course of the evening he explained why the Lib Dems will be ok. He said that ‘ironically, First Past the Post has become our best friend’, because the national picture is not the be all and end all for the Lib Dems. The Lib Dem’s elected representatives are incredibly active in their communities, and aim to become local institutions- more so than any other party. The Lib Dems will lose seats, but not too many.
After all, as Tim Farron said, ‘one of the good things Nick’s done is not get arrested for conspiracy to murder’, a reference to the Thorpe affair. The election of 1979 was much harder for the Liberals, with their leader mid-trial for secretly attempting to use party funds to have his former gay lover murdered. If they survived that election, they can survive this one.
UKIP won’t be that important after the election. The Guardian have a really handy website translating the national opinion polls into seats. Because of the local make-up, UKIP seem to languishing at around 5 seats. I’d personally say that they’ll do better than that, but not enough better to achieve the parliamentary respect they will loudly demand.
The SNP won’t win by quite as much as the forecasts suggest in Scotland, but they will make big gains. They will undoubtedly win the majority of the Scottish seats, and cause havoc in Westminster.
The Greens could win a seat or two, but they aren’t helping themselves. Caroline Lucas might just retain her Brighton seat, but their popularity comes from students and socialists. They don’t have many Green strongholds, and they don’t have any high profile candidates.
Labour won’t win many seats. Well that’s not fair, they will in England, but they’ll lose a lot in Scotland. So they will have around the same amount of seats after the election. Miliband isn’t that inspiring, but their candidate focused election policy is working in England. But Miliband isn’t convincing many of the Scottish that he’s anti-Tory enough for them. He might not be New Labour, but he looks and acts like he is.
The Tories will lose seats, but again not that many. People are angry at the Conservatives, especially in English seats that swung in 2010. The Tories may well be wiped out of Scotland, losing their one Scottish MP and all of their legitimacy in Scotland.
After the election, it’s anyone’s guess. If Labour get more seats, there will be a Labour-SNP-Lib Dem agreement, and another election within a year; a government deriving its legitimacy from the SNP could not impose England-only laws without answering the West Lothian question if they want to retain their legitimacy. If the Conservatives do, there will be a Tory-UKIP-Lib Dem-NI Parties agreement, and another election within a year as, with UKIP and the Lib Dem’s completely opposing points of view on Europe, no one would be able to justify an agreement that does more than ensure the continued governance of the country.
I could of course be wrong. There could be a sudden swing either way, or some sudden changes in policy. We could well get to May and find that the SNP and Labour don’t mind too much about how ridiculous they look, or the Lib Dems suddenly abandon Europe.
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