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With the European elections ending last week, attention will swiftly turn to next year’s general election in May. Opinion polls show a minor Labour lead with the Tories in touching distance. Having said that, with Labour stagnating, Dave’s “Big Society” never really making headway and Clegg’s face now a symbol of hate for student voters, to predict who will be residing in Downing Street in 2015 proves an incredibly tricky task.
While opinion polls fluctuate between Labour and the Conservatives, no party is showing the majority lead needed to effectively form a strong government next year. Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are all troubled by their own problems. Ed Miliband’s leadership seems to raise big concerns amongst the electorate; David Cameron’s austerity measures have hit the poor hard; and Nick Clegg’s false promises have damaged Liberal Democrat integrity substantially. Amongst all this, Nigel Farage has profited greatly, emerging as a strong protest vote against the mainstream party’s failings – despite UKIP suffering their own internal problems too.
Ed Miliband’s leadership has come under serious scrutiny and there remain other uncertainties when looking past his leadership credentials. While criticising Conservative policy is all well and good, having a significant plan with which to takeover is something which will prove much more important. Cameron, on the other hand, has firmly stated a “we are all in it together” line throughout his premiership. However, the coalition has seen the culmination of an ever-increasing gap between the rich and poor which sees the wealthy get richer while the poor’s cost of living increases. They, as well as the Lib Dems, are in for a drubbing at the European elections, with many anticipating a cabinet reshuffle as a consequence. Cameron has frequently felt criticism from his party’s right-wing members as he sways to a more liberal outlook. This has resulted in many claiming he is out of touch with his own party which has created rebellion and defection from voters and some party members. Cameron and Osborne are both clinging on to the revival in the economy, which they hope will be booming by the time of the election.
The backlash for Nick Clegg and his party following the broken promises of 2010 are expected to hit the Lib Dems incredibly hard at the European and general elections. Despite this, with neither Miliband nor Cameron giving much confidence in forming a majority government, the likelihood of an outright lead come next May seems far off. In order to form a strong enough government a coalition may again be called upon, which would potentially give Clegg a route out of a miserable four years as deputy prime minister. History suggests that forming a minority government would not help any party as James Callagahan and John Major know all too well. They held office for only a year after trying to manage a minority government – a minority government which could make a vote of no confidence and bat down projected policy and legislation, thus stemming the remit of the prospective government. When considering this it should come as a surprise if a party does indeed form a minority government, if no-one gains the elusive 326-seat majority.
While the political landscape could drastically change by the end of 2015, Cameron, Miliband and Clegg all face the perils of losing an election which would put their heads on the line – making their futures just as uncertain as their parties. If the Scots vote for independence the plot could be further thickened, as Labour would lose 40 seats north of the border, and Cameron’s head would be called for as he may earn the tag “the prime minister who lost Scotland.” It is taken for granted that Scottish independence won’t materialise, but should it do so, a huge spanner would be thrown into Westminster, as next year’s general election would spiral into further uncertainty and turmoil.
As the race for the next general election intensifies, with no stand-out candidate emerging, there are many questions still left unanswered. The Conservatives must continue to hold Labour responsible for the 2008 crash and cite economic figures which shown Osbourne’s austerity measures have cut the deficit gradually. Labour must create a manifesto which gives the electorate the feeling of the grass being greener on the other side, while Miliband attempts to restore confidence in his own leadership too. For Clegg, the prospect of being in power, even as a coalition, will seem far more attractive than being sat on the opposition in the House of Commons next May.
All these different narratives will come to the fore in May 2015 presenting us with the one of the most unpredictable general elections in a generation.