Readers, we are now just eight weeks away from the polling day for this year's general election.
I believe more candidates than ever will be contesting (although out of the minor parties, only TUSC appears likely to get its own election broadcast)-and I am pleased to say there are now more than 500 Green PPCs standing across the whole of the UK at this time of writing :)
Even though political parties' support is not wavering that much in polls, this election will still be the most difficult to predict in terms of overall national outcome. And whilst the media talks of realistically possible coalitions and outcomes arising from this general election, the possible consequences are not often discussed thoroughly.
Realistically possible outcomes from the 2015 general election:
Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition continues (unlikely): Sitting Liberal Democrat MPs have tended to be very good at using their personal vote to retain incumbency when trends are not in their favour (or at least ensure they do not lose heavily) and the increase in vote share for both UKIP and the Greens (depending on constituency) could cause some slated Conservative losses to be Conservative holds in reality. If the Con-Dem coalition somehow continues after May 2015, Britain will just get worse and worse, especially for ordinary people.
Conservative majority (very unlikely): The Conservatives only need 20 more seats to gain the majority they failed to reach in 2010, and they are likely to gain some Liberal Democrat seats (and possibly even the odd Labour seat or two). With UKIP still taking large numbers of ex-Conservative voters, however, an outright Conservative majority, which has not been achieved since 1992, is a very unlikely scenario. The consequences of it would be a neoconservative austerity regime so bad it could in my opinion be on par with that of Spain under Mariano Rajoy, and what Greece endured under Antonis Samaras (before he and New Democracy were ousted in 2015).
Labour majority (unlikely): Were Ed Miliband and Labour trying to actually distance themselves from the Con-Dems, this would be a more likely outcome. However, his failure to oppose austerity or reverse key callous mistakes by the Con-Dems (e.g. trebling of tuition fees, closing of the Independent Living Fund), and the lasting consequences of Labour's collusion with the Con-Dems in the 'Better Together' campaign in Scotland some months earlier, means that an outright majority is unlikely even if Labour wins the most seats. In any case, a Labour government will just continue the Con-Dems' austerity, albeit a bit more softly, and therefore get an even greater collapse than the Con-Dems.
Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition (very unlikely): The MPs within the Liberal Democrats could potentially switch sides after May 2015, as their German counterparts, the FDP, did in 1982 (albeit the other way around, from supporting the SPD to supporting the CDU). However, given that the social liberals (as opposed to the Orange Bookers, a group including such MPs as David Laws and Vince Cable) amongst Lib Dem MPs are more likely to lose their seats this year, this will only happen if Labour do not win a majority and do not get confidence and supply from the SNP, and if the Lib Dems can save incumbents' seats when their vote share is collapsing left, right and centre. Such a coalition would be no better for the people of Britain than the current Con-Dem coalition has been during its tenure.
Labour-SNP deal (unlikely): Given that the SNP will not make any deals with the Conservatives, and the fact they could be in a kingmaker position after the next election when they are predicted to win so many seats off Labour in Scotland, this might be possible. However, many newly elected SNP MPs will be reluctant to support Labour due to Labour's support for unionism and lack of opposition to the neoliberal orthodoxy, even if they could use their leverage to obtain more powers for the Scottish Parliament and for local government in Scotland. Such an agreement, however, will in my opinion, probably have the least bad consequences of the post-election outcomes I am listing here.
Grand Coalition (very unlikely): If the Liberal Democrats lose enough seats, if the Conservatives lose enough seats to Labour but not too many, and if Labour do indeed lose massively in Scotland, the distant possibility of a grand coalition between Conservative and Labour (a similar coalition exists in Germany between the CDU and SPD) is still there. However, as Labour would practically be committing political suicide by engaging in such a coalition (as would the Conservatives, if not to the same extent), it would likely only be a last resort by the LibLabCons to avoid having to call another election.
Second election in 2015 is called (possible): In spite of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act mandating five-year parliaments unless 2/3 of MPs vote to dissolve Parliament early, a repeat of the 1974 situation is a likely outcome if neither the SNP nor the Liberal Democrats have enough seats apiece to stabilise a coalition. As with October 1974 following on from February 1974, it could see the Conservatives and Labour desperately trying to squeeze votes from other parties (especially UKIP and the Green Party) to achieve a majority, and voter turnout in such a situation will likely be worse even than in June 2001 (national turnout then was 59.4%, the lowest since World War One).
Given the tightness of opinion polls from all major sources (YouGov, Ashcroft, ComRes, Ipsos Mori and Survation), all I can predict at the moment nationally is that there will be a hung parliament once again after the May 2015 general election, even if I can predict the outcomes of individual constituencies. But I nevertheless believe it is important we are forewarned of the potential consequences of possible coalitions/other situations. If only the Green Party had some chance of springing to government from having just one MP (I do like a nice surprise, even if it is a very optimistic one)...