With polling stations now ooen, the only thing that can be taken for granted is that there will be another hung parliament.
A hung parliament means that no single party has reached the magic number of 326 seats – a parliamentary majority. This means that a coalition deal, like we’ve had for the last five years, is highly likely. But what are the possible combinations?
Labour and SNP
It’s the horror story/dream we’ve all been warned about/hoped for, but it’s not hugely likely. Even though Labour has said from the start that they would never do a deal with the SNP. Of course, this was to be expected: the two are sworn enemies in Scotland, and by ruling out a deal with the SNP, Labour have tried to win voters scared of another Tory government. However, most Scots saw through this, with the SNP rising to meteoric heights in the polls. Now Ed Miliband has said that he would pass up the opportunity to be Prime Minister if it was reliant on an arrangement with the SNP – much to the shock and amazement of many Scots. If Labour’s refusal to deal with the SNP led to David Cameron returning to No. 10, it would undoubtedly be the end of Labour as a major force in Scottish politics. Is it a price worth paying for nuclear weapons?
Labour and Lib Dem
The option no one considered: Labour have been in opposition to the UK’s other major progressive party for the last five years. However, with both party’s manifestos containing similar left leaning elements (although, frankly, the Lib Dem’s is more leftist), there’s no reason why these two former opponents couldn’t work together. This would have to be a minority government, however, as Labour and the Lib Dems combined are highly unlikely to get enough seats to give the pair a majority. They would be able to get enough bills through with support from the SNP without a formal arrangement – whenever they supported a Lab/Lib deal, the governing parties would get the credit. If they voted against it, the SNP would be called out for voting with the Tories. It’s a hugely attractive option that Ed must be relishing.
Conservative and Lib Dem
In last week’s Question Time, Nick Clegg said he didn’t regret his decision to go into government with the Tories, and that he would do it again. In fairness, Clegg got far more of his manifesto on the statute books that he would have achieved if he was in opposition. However, his party took a battering that it may never recover from, after allowing through several unpopular Conservative bills. A deal with the Lib Dems might even satisfy all sides of the Tories, after Clegg suggested that he might support a Tory in/out referendum on EU membership, provided the Tories met key Lib Dem demands on education and public sector pay. It seems more likely, however, that a referendum will occur regardless – and Mr Clegg’s demands might be traded for something else: David Cameron cannot afford to lose any more MPs to UKIP…so maybe he might adhere to the Lib Dem demands…
Conservative and SNP
No chance. Ideologically, the two are polar opposites. The SNP have categorically ruled out a deal with the Tories, and the Tories have spent the entire election campaign briefing against the possibility of the SNP being in some sort of control.
Of course, there are plenty more of combinations – including Labour or Conservative minority government – but these are the only options where a majority (or close to it) could be achieved. The above combinations may or may not happen, and may feature Plaid Cymru, the Greens, or the DUP. You never know. You can’t take anything for certain.