Attempting to predict the most unpredictable general election.
As someone who has been paying attention to politics since well before the last general election, like most other commentators I am finding 2015’s election extremely difficult to predict.
We no longer live in a two-party system: the seven-way television debate highlighted this very fact, as did the formation of a coalition in 2010 and the surge of smaller parties in the polls.
But there are seven things which I can say with 95% certainty will happen. If I am wrong then come back and correct me in just over a month's time.
1) There will be a hung parliament. In May the country will face another one of these first-past-the-post anomalies, highlighting how unfit for purpose our two-party electoral system is for our plural party system. Furthermore, it is more than likely that more than two parties will be needed to form a coalition or confidence and supply.
2) UKIP vote share will rise significantly. Nigel Farage’s party has gained massively in the last few years, both in the EU elections and in the polls. However, I cannot imagine the party getting more than five seats, due to the constraints of FPTP. Douglas Carswell will certainly hang on to Clacton and Mark Reckless will likely hold on to Rochester. As for Nigel Farage, polls suggest the race is close but my gut says he will win his seat - but it will be tight.
3) The SNP will be the largest party in Scotland - both in terms of seats and votes. The party’s rise since the referendum is not losing momentum, and they will resultantly be key players in a post-election deal.
4) The Liberal Democrats’ vote share will fall significantly, but they will not be wiped out. The party has strongholds across the UK, strongholds which will help the party retain at least a third to half of its seats.
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5) Conservative vote share will fall, whilst Labour’s will rise. The question is by how much. The Tories will suffer due to UKIP so will undoubtedly lose support, but whether that costs them the election will be another thing. Labour will make gains, but the worry for them is that any seats they gain in the south will be negated by the SNP’s rise in the north.
6) The Greens’ vote share will rise, as indicated in the polls. However, they are unlikely to gain any more MPs and face a tough fight in keeping Caroline Lucas’ seat.
7) Scotland’s turnout will be noticeably higher than in the rest of the UK. As someone who lives in Scotland there has really been an increase in political engagement since the 85% turnout in the referendum. As a result, turnout north of the border will be higher, but still nowhere near the 85% mark.
What will happen?
People reading will want real predictions, numerical guesses, but with so many uncertainties and the disproportionate nature of our voting system such a thing is hard to do.
My gut says that David Cameron’s Conservatives will remain the largest party. Before the referendum I would have said Labour but the SNP’s growth in support has changed everything. Whether or not the Conservatives remain in power is a different issue all together. If more than two parties are needed Cameron only has one big ally in the parliament: the Liberal Democrats. If more than two parties are needed then the Conservatives will need to deal with them and UKIP, the DUP and perhaps a few others. Labour on the other hand will - if they want to - be able to deal with the SNP and could also deal with the Liberal Democrats. They could also deal with the DUP. Labour after May will likely have two big allies to rely upon.
If such a situation emerges: the Liberal Democrats could be the kingmakers.
What are your predictions? What sort of government do you think the election will result in?