We are now entering a critical phase of this electoral cycle: local elections, parliamentary elections, further local elections, the European elections and the Scottish referendum on independance The outcomes of these elections will set the agenda for the next General Election. In this cycle, the fortunes of UKiP will determine the outcome of the General Election So long as UKIP’s standing in national polls is in excess of 10 percent, and it now stands at 13 percent in some polls, the Tories cannot win a General Election and Labour will be handicapped in the drive for a majority at Westminster. It is an easy prediction to make that UKIP is likely to top the Euro polls and at some time during 2014 will be showing, in some national opinion polls, support in the 20’s before a decline as the General Election approaches.
I assume that Scottish voters stay in control of their good senses and will vote No in the Scottish referendum. If so one would expect electoral support for the SNP to decline and a recovery of the Labour vote at Westminster to take place in Scotland. If this occurs then Laboiur would be diffiult to defeat in Westminster elections.
While economic predictions are foolhardy the odds are on poor economic performance up to May 2015. The best the Tories can hope for is slow growth, stable employment and a deficit edging slowly downwards. There will be little prospect of electoral bribes. This being so it is safe to predict that the chance of a Tory majority at the next
General Election are near to zero.
What then are the prospects for the Lib Dems? I do not under-rate the resiliance of the Lib Dems. However, if in the public mind they remain linked to the Tories in Coalition a reasonable prediction is that their parliamntsary position would decline substantially with a loss of 30-40 MPs. It would follow from this that it would be
most unlikely that they could play any part in a national coalition with any other party.
In these circumstances I would expect UKIP to win some Westminster seats at the expense of the Coalition parites but not enought seats to achieve any tactical advantage.
If this analysis is broadly right we would haver had a further shake in the party system that could in some circumstance lead to paralysis. As the economic circumstasnces inherited by a new Labour Government would be difficult if not dire Britain might emerge from the experiment of Coalition in a virtually ungovernable
All this will become clearer to participants and pundits. Will those individuals at the heart of this disaster do nothing? I have never believed that they would behave as rabbits staring into car lights. The Coalitiion will break up and David Cameron could be confronted with a leadership election before May 2015.
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I made a public prediction within a month of the formation of the Coalition that electoral support for the Lib Dems would decline steadily to single figures in the public opinion polls. Last week, in a Yougov Poll, it had fallen from 23% in the General Election to 12% now. It will fall further through a pre-budget statement (if we have one), the budget itself and the local elections in May. In the autumn I expect Labour to be given a boost by the election of a new leader ( assuming this not to be Diane Abbot). The Lib Dems usually do better in local elections than their national opinion poll rating might suggest. Nevertheless, if their opinion poll rating at that time is, say, 8 per cent, they will do badly. If Labour decides to mount a national campaign to oppose the AV alternative to first past the post in a referendum, and given the likely low level of Lib Dem electoral support at the time, the alternative vote option will be lost. And where will the Lib Dems be then, poor things, where will they be then?
In Conservative Party Central office lies on a few desks the result of a recent survey of the opinions of party members on the future of the Coalition. The Tories are not fools. They have tested members with the question, ‘Would you support a single Lib Dem Coalition candidate in selected areas and seats in elections?’ The results will be interesting. (Shouldn’t the Tories be asked about these survey results?) What price will Tories be willing to pay up and down the country to preserve the Coalition? If the Coalition itself is unpopular at the time, in May, I assume it would not help much. And what of the Lib Dems? Are their members willing to stand on a Coalition ticket? I suspect than many, if not most, would decline. There is Nick Clegg’s own position in Sheffield. Isn’t there an imminent and real danger that he will lose his seat if he stands as a Lib Dem candidate with a Tory running against him. There may be a heavy price to be paid for abandoning Sheffield Forgemasters.
This is the way of all Con/Lib Coalitions. The weaker party comes out worse for the arrangement. There will be Lib Dems who will run in some sort of Liberal /Conservative colours and others who refuse to do so. Wise Lib Dem cabinet members will get out while the going is good but others will remain and fight on as Liberal Conservatives. If the margin of support is small at the time between Labour and the Conservatives an extra 4-6 pecent of the vote sticking to Lib/Con candidates could be decisive. These calculations are difficult. It may be in the interest of the Tories and Nick Clegg to cut and run before these difficulties overwhelm them. What should Labour do when the leadership issue is settled? I shall return to this theme in future blogs. We will not get any wiser by listening in to Labour leadership debates.
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