As I’m sure you all know, we in the UK have a general election coming up in May, so I’m going to run a quick series of five predictions for the coming election, hopefully with some guest posts. So here are my, completely unscientific, general election predictions.
1. It will be a hung parliament.
Okay, so this is hardly a dramatic prediction – it’s basically universally agreed upon amongst pundits. However, I still hear people insist that the Tories are going to win a majority. To be clear, this is almost impossible. For the Tories to achieve this, they would need a 7% lead in the final polls. This would require either a complete collapse in the Labour vote or the Tories to increase their vote share drastically in the next election. Neither of these will happen. The Labour vote has held steady at around 32% and no sitting leader has increased their party’s vote share since 1974, not even Thatcher or Blair. Cameron is not as popular as Thatcher or Blair were at their height, and he has alienated public sector workers, teachers, the low-paid and the old guard of social conservatives to UKIP. Likewise, with the SNP surge in Scotland, Labour will not achieve a majority. We are in for another round of negotiations and uncertainty.
2. Nick Clegg will hold his seat.
Lord Ashcroft’s polling today has Clegg 2 points behind Labour in Sheffield Hallam. However, I do not believe that this means he will lose this seat by any means. 2 points is a small margin, and I expect it to be recouped in the short campaign when voters tend to swing back towards incumbents. Labour need to be careful also, as focusing on kicking him out in the seat may be seen as bullying, and will turn voters off. It’ll be tough, but an incumbency bounce and a bit of anti-Labour tactical voting will be enough to see Clegg home.
3. Nigel Farage will be elected to Parliament. (Just)
Since announcing his candidature for South Thanet, there has been a lot of discussion concerning whether Nigel Farage will live up to the hype and make it in to parliament. It has been pointed out that South Thanet, where he is standing, is not one of the most UKIP-friendly seats, and that there is the potential for ‘Anti-Farage’ tactical voting. However, I still think Farage will scrape in. His popularity and presence is enough to win over disillusioned Tory and Labour voters, as well as crucial ‘non-voters’. Furthermore, Labour are polling second in the seat. This makes the ‘tactical voting’ less of a problem for Farage. It is unlikely many Tories will vote Labour to stop Farage, and you can guarantee that much of the Lib Dem vote has already gone to Labour, and we won’t see many more here making the switch. Farage will take the seat, if only by a percent or two.
4. The two major parties will do better than expected
One of the most common themes during this election has been the claim that it will be ‘the dawn of five-party politics’, and the final nail in the coffin for the supremacy of Labour and the Conservatives. Don’t count on it. At the moment, polls frequently have the two parties on or in excess of 70%. UKIP’s vote is already beginning to seep back to the Conservatives in polling and expect this trend to continue as the election draws closer. Likewise, the (non-existent) Green surge will not amount to anything more than a hold in Brighton Pavilion and the Lib Dem vote will collapse everywhere that is not a Tory-facing marginal. Don’t be at all surprised if the combined vote share of Labour and the Tories ends up at around 72%, higher than in 2010.
5. Having said that …
UKIP will become the main opposition to Labour in many northern seats. Building on their success in local and European elections, the party will supersede the Liberal Democrats and take a raft of second places in the North. The party’s rhetoric resonates with many disillusioned working class voters in old industrial towns, who believe Labour have abandoned them and their, traditionally more socially conservative, values. Likewise, already existing tensions between ethnic groups have only been amplified by child abuse scandals in Rotherham and Rochdale. Expect UKIP to exceed expectations in such seats.