There are only two options.
Either the pollsters have been getting it catastrophically wrong, for months. Or the next parliament will be a patchwork of possibilities.
No party will have a majority in Thursday’s election. More, it’s even possible no two parties in any kind of arrangement will be able to build one.
The pollsters tell us Labour and the Tories are locked at around 33% of the vote each. ‘Course, in parliament it’s the number of seats that matters and you only have to look at the Lib Dems in 1992 and 1997 to see how tricky that can be.
In ’92 they polled 18% of the vote and won 20 seats; in ’97, their share fell to 17% … but they more than doubled their seats to 46.
We do know, though, that in Scotland, the SNP will celebrate a landslide. The only question is will it be big, huge, monumental or total.
Paradoxically, though, whatever the size it won’t affect the Labour/SNP arithmetic. SNP gains will be (mostly) Labour losses. But if Labour under performs in England, the argument over a Lab/SNP arrangement of any kind would be academic. It would be short of a mathematical majority.
Predictions? A fools game. But it would be surprising if the number of Tory MPs in the next parliament were outside the 275-285 range; Labour 265-275; Lib Dems 27-32 … with the SNP a few either side of 50.
A minority government seems, at the moment, the most likely outcome. A second Cameron/Clegg coalition might have 305-310 seats – short of a majority, true, but larger and arguably more stable than a Miliband ‘rainbow’ … assuming the SNP are left pressing their noses against the window.
Oh … and if you like long shots, don’t rule out a ‘Grand Coalition’ with the principal purpose of tinkering with the Fixed Parliaments Act so we can do all of this again in October.
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