The time for reflection from some of our local worthies is surely now over. So, wake up, folks, we’ve got a General Election to look forward to this year and, who knows, possibly two!
Indeed, the starting gun appears already to have been fired. Whilst many people, given a choice, would cheerfully like to go to sleep until it’s all over, I’m equally sure that many people will be indulging in some crystal ball gazing between now and May, and not just the political anoraks. So, here’s my contribution, for what it’s worth.
Let’s start with the party Leaders. I can’t see the David and Ed losing their seats, although UKIP has threatened to upset the apple cart in Doncaster North whilst Labour is apparently targeting Nick Clegg’s seat in Sheffield Hallam. Surely we couldn’t have a situation where David Cameron in Witney was the only one of the three to retain his seat, could we?
Which leaves us with UKIP’s Nigel Farage in Thanet and Natalie Bennett of the Green Party in Frank Dobson’s old seat of St Pancras. Ms Bennett would need all her antipodean grit to win, although I can’t see many greens joining her other than Caroline Lucas MP, who has not been helped in her Brighton seat by the mess her party apparently made of running the local council. The same might apply to Nigel, although, watch out for young Mr Robin Hunter-Clarke in Skegness and Boston in our neck of the woods, plus a few others around the country.
Nearer to home the rest of Lincolnshire looks a pretty safe bet for the Tories, although, if I were Lincoln’s Karl McCartney, I would be praying that the Eastern Bypass gets the green light before Election Day. Otherwise, he’d better think about updating his CV!
One thing most of us would, I believe, agree with is that it is at the moment nigh on impossible to predict the outcome of the 2015 General Election. That no one party will achieve an absolute majority is almost certain, unless the electorate really is holding its cards closer to its chest than the pollsters realise.
I think we can be pretty certain that the Lib Dem representation will not increase; but will not necessarily be decimated to the extent predicted by some, thanks ironically largely to ‘First-Past-The-Post’. Whatever happens, it would be pretty sad if any single party were to gain an absolute majority with under 36% of the popular vote, which Labour could conceivably do, thanks again to FPTP.
It might be that, as in 1974, we could be treated to two General Elections in the same year. But first you have to get over the hurdle of the Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011. The Act stipulates that a dissolution of parliament requires either a two thirds majority of MPs or a motion of no confidence in the government staying on the table for 14 days without any party or parties coming forward to try to form an alternative administration. Although, I suppose that they could scrap the Act altogether; but that would require a majority in Parliament and could waste a good deal of parliamentary time.
So, unless two thirds of the new house are really gluttons for punishment, it looks pretty likely that someone will have a go at cobbling together a coalition, only, please, don’t try to do it in a week as happened in 2010. I’m not saying that we should take as long as the 18 months or so that it took to form the last Belgian government but a longer period of deliberation nearly five years ago might have avoided some of the pitfalls our first peace time coalition government in the modern era experienced, which did much to undermine its and particularly the Liberal Democrats’ credibility even amongst those who had initially wished it well. Who knows, a new ‘rainbow’ coalition could limp on for years, as did the Labour government in the 1970s, aided and abetted largely by the Liberals.
Until we get a voting system that accurately reflects the increasing pluralism in our society and until all political parties wake up to this fact and campaign realistically it will simply carry on being Groundhog Day every five years.
We need a parliament that is truly representative of our nation if we are to rise to the challenges of the future, both at home and abroad. How long before we replace our clapped out system with a brand new model for the rest of the 21st Century? Perhaps then we can finally find that role for ourselves in the world for which we started searching, according to the late US statesman, Dean Acheson, ever since we lost our empire after World War Two.
With the possibility of Nicola Sturgeon emboldened by an upsurge in SNP numbers at Westminster in 2015 demanding ever more concessions from any future UK government, especially if its largest component is provided by Labour, and with the distinct possibility of a Brexit from the EU unless we and our European partners wake up in time, together with the uncertain economic and political situation around the world, the next few years will be the most challenging for our little island since we stood alone following the fall of France in 1940, or, am I being a tad too melodramatic?