Readers, Parliament officially dissolved today and election nominations have just opened (they close on 9th April, so all will be revealed on the afternoon of 10th April).
And due to the fact Britain is entering five party politics, a lot of seats could change hands and there could be more surprise results than ever before. Polls show it is still tight between the Conservatives and Labour, and due to polls differing (ComRes and Ashcroft polls put the Conservatives in the lead, YouGov puts Labour in the lead, and Populus' latest poll was a tie at 34% each), it is unknown what could emerge come May 2015.
As with 2010, there are so many candidates from all different backgrounds and bearing all different colours of rosette. I will in particular say that across the UK, the Green Parties of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland at this time of writing altogether plan to be contesting seven-eighths of all UK Parliamentary constituencies.
I also have some questions and thoughts on this general election.
1. How many seats will change hands altogether? I believe that in Scotland, most seats not held by the SNP will change hands to the SNP, or are likely to. And in England, because of the rise of the Greens and UKIP (depending on area), more seats have a chance to change hands than ever before; previously safe seats may find themselves not as safe as once thought. I believe that across the UK, as many as 150 parliamentary constituencies have a chance, or at least an outside chance, of changing hands this year.
2. How well will the Green Party perform? Even though polls suggest we will only hold Brighton Pavilion, I believe we can win Norwich South and Bristol West, and gain second place in other crucial seats, like Hackney North & Stoke Newington and York Central. There is so much potential for us out there, even in places we have never contested before.
3. Who outside the seven largest parties in Britain, whose leaders are taking part in ITV's debate this week, could get an election broadcast as well? As it stands, only the far-left Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has enough PPCs to qualify (it has 131), and whether all these candidates will actually make it on the ballot papers is not yet confirmed (the same is true for every other PPC).
4. How many seats could the Liberal Democrats actually lose? There are many seats that they are likely to lose or are almost certain to lose, such as Manchester Withington and Brent Central. An in-campaign recovery, as did happen in 1979, is unlikely for them, but incumbency could mitigate their heavy vote share loss once again by meaning they hold on to more seats than expected. Their only realistic possibilities of gains in my opinion include Watford, Montgomeryshire, and Truro & Falmouth.
5. Could UKIP maintain its substantial poll ratings throughout the campaign? In light of recent events, it is likely their support will fade somewhat by the time 7th May comes around-there have been many embarrassing incidents and gaffes with UKIP PPCs over the past few months. However, it still appears likely that they will gain seats by sneaking through the net (often done in marginal seats under first past the post) in tight contests such as Thurrock and Great Grimsby.
6. Which MP, new or old, will poll the lowest winning percentage? I am not sure yet, but I believe there is a good chance that the current record (26%, set by Russell Johnston in Inverness, Nairn, and Lochaber in 1992) could be beaten this year. The MP who received the lowest winning percentage in 2010, Simon Wright (who won Norwich South with just 29.4% of the vote last time) could also set a record for worst performance by a sitting and properly selected MP, as he could fall to fifth place from first.
7. Could we end up with an early election after this one, in spite of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act? Yes, if neither Messrs Cameron or Miliband can form a workable minority government or coalition, in spite of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act meaning that two-thirds of MPs need to vote to dissolve Parliament early. At the moment, the aforementioned situation appears probable at least.
Please feel free to give your own answers to my seven questions above.