Our politicians are infatuated with dubbing the incoming May election as ‘the most important in a generation’. An election tool perhaps. Yet, nonetheless, the polls show no majority across any predictions. Ultimately, the battle will not solely hinge on Cameron and Miliband, but will be determined by the closed door wranglings made to reach those elusive 326 seats – should they seek to avoid a fragile minority government.
Of course, the MPs who would proclaim this phrase may recall that 16 of the 18 governments since the end of the Second World War have been majorities. It is certainly apparent that now, more than ever, the outcomes of the other parties matter.
To offer focus to the election aftermath would indefinitely involve an analysis of Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party, who are tipped to blanket Scotland. Yet, an awkward tri-scolding has formed. Ed Miliband has revoked any likelihood of coalition with a parliament-based Alex Salmond. Salmond himself has issued a scathing decree to block any minority Conservative government holding power, while also showing an open willingness to work alongside Labour, who they are tipped to decimate in Scotland.
The Tories, in turn, have been quite reticent towards any prospective partnerships. The House of Commons Leader, William Hague, stated the Conservatives would not offer pre-election deals, maintaining that the party is purely focused on securing a majority.
If Labour maintains its polling at 34% they face holding 272 seats across the UK. A median of 55 seats from the SNP would allow Miliband to cross the 326 threshold with a single seat to spare.
Sturgeon has highlighted her party’s desire for a “constructive” role in Westminster. The chance to lead government in both the Scottish Assembly and indirectly in Parliament would probably lead her to accept a compromise with Labour. Moreover, it may edge her closer to the SNP’s ultimate ambition for a larger stake of the ‘Home Rule’ dogma.
A blue picture is less likely, but not altogether improbable. Ed Miliband is still not polled as favourably as Cameron to hold the keys to Downing Street, even within his own party, and it’s likely this will play an important factor in voters’ minds.
Today an afterthought, but perhaps wrongly so, Nick Clegg’s ever fledgling Liberal Democrats may have a place in a post-election deal. In the unlikely event they survive a purge and retain 40 seats, they could still be a coalition option for the Tories.
In the event of a Lib Dem revival, Cameron would need to gather 35% of votes, which would bestow his party with 287 seats. 40 Lib Dem seats would push a ConDem partnership over the edge. Nonetheless, most pollsters predict no more than 30 seats for Clegg.
However, if the Conservatives stretch their advantage to 36-points (Lab 32%), commanding 291 seats, they could renew a coalition with the Liberals (in the event of a predicted drop to 27 seats), and pull in the DUP of Northern Ireland who would have to maintain their 8 seats – in order to form that 326 mark.
Nick Clegg’s hasn’t overtly hinted at how his party would behave post-election. DUP MPs have, conversely, indicated their willingness to work alongside their Conservative political brothers should the need arise.
At this moment in time, the most likely outcome is a second consecutive hung parliament, with the Conservatives holding the most seats. Cameron is currently the favourite across most polling companies.
‘The most important election in a generation,’ perhaps rings true when considering how volatile these numbers, albeit potentially, are. The 2010 general election was arguably fought with the personalities of the leaders in the minds of voters, and how they conveyed themselves in the broadcasted debates. With the first of the televised events scheduled for tonight, these preliminary figures will undoubtedly need to be revisited. But, at this moment, it’s still a Clegg or Sturgeon affair as to who will be kingmaker.