One of the things the coalition has done is set up the fixed terms act, which sees the date of the next General Election in the public domain in advance. For political junkies like me, this has taken all of the fun out of trying to speculate when the next election is going to be, with Gordon Brown (below) being the last Prime Minister to pick an election date. We know that we will be going to the polls on Thursday May 7th 2015.
Of course perceived wisdom among the Westminster village is that the Westminster Election a coming a year today is the big political event. The resources of the Westminster parties are entirely focused on next May and winning power for their party. That there is a very large Scottish Referendum shaped elephant in the room seems to have bypassed those villagers – though it does explain the haste in trying to bury the pro-Independence parties in January. If we can park that issue for one moment – assuming a “no” vote, what is likely to happen.
For starters, do not expect a repeat of the “leaders debates” from 2010. Cameron and co have been reticent to repeat these debates. Cameron’s claim is that they broke up the rhythm of his campaign schedule and that rather than campaign out in the stump, he had to prepare for debates. Instead, Cameron thinks that there should be a debate between himself and Miliband, one mirroring the debates from four years ago (Cameron, Clegg & Miliband) and one that includes Farage. This strategy has been dubbed the 2-3-5 debate strategy.
If Farage is included in the “Leaders Debates” and the SNP/Plaid Cymru axis are ignored, then you can expect court action to take place – launched by the SNP. It would be possible then for the Scottish Courts to ban the showing of these “Leaders Debates” in Scotland under the Representation of the People’s Act. This would probably give Cameron the excuse he needs to not take part – though lets be honest Cameron really would take any excuse not to take part considering he has run away from debating with Salmond.
No Cameron/Milliband debate will make it easier for Cameron, not that he needs it. I think that we will be looking at a small majority Conservative government after the election. Milliband & co have never looked like being an alternative government in waiting, while I think that the informal Lib Dem/Labour tactical voting pact that has lasted since 1997 will begin to break down. After all, what’s the point in voting Lib Dem to keep out the Tories when the Lib Dems went into government to prop up the Tories.
The Tories need a swing of 1.8% to take a majority. Remember as well that out of the thirty easiest seats the Tories need to win (winning 20 will give them a majority) 8 are Lib Dem seats. With Osborne constantly ahead of Balls on economic polling, that decision to sign up to Osborne’s austerity drive and not to formulate your own alternative looks more and more like folly.
What we don’t know is how the hangover from the referendum will affect the Westminster elections. A no vote might not necessarily see the return of Scotland voting for 40+ Labour MP’s, especially given the conduct of “Scottish” Labour during this campaign. In the event of a Yes vote though, all of the best laid plans of Osborne, Alexander and their expensive foreign advisors will go up in smoke.
The surprising aspect about this is how the possibility of a yes vote has been written off by the Westminster Village. There is no tailoring of policy towards trying to keep us in the Union, indeed there seems to be the reverse which is why Labour’s show of unity with the Government over Sterlingzone backfired so spectacularly. The policies of the three main parties are being tailored towards winning over the marginal seats in the Midlands and the South East of England (and to fending off UKIP). This is why it took so long for Labour to commit to scrapping the Spare Room Subsidy, and this is where the rot started for Better Together.
A yes vote would completely obliterate the timetable that states that the next Westminster election will happen next year. It would become a possibility that it could happen this year. We could see Cameron being forced to resign, as the Prime Minister that lost the Union. Of course there are those who would say that Salmond should resign if there was a no vote. He shouldn’t, but Cameron should resign in the event of a Yes vote. As the figurehead of this countries government, his defence of the union has been pisspoor at best. After all what sort of confidence are we to have in the Union when Cameron doesn’t want to defend it in a debate.
That’s just the… ah… known unknowns regarding a Yes vote. What is completely unknown is whether a Yes vote would lead to a destabilising vacuum of power at the heart of government. We are talking about here the biggest vote of no confidence in Westminster… well ever.
An awful lot of the predictions being made do not take into account the Independence Referendum. Whatever happens will cast a shadow over the following Westminster Election, and that in itself makes reading the tea leaves just that wee bit more difficult than just sitting here and saying that Cameron will win, or will lead the largest party. This September’s events will go a long way, and play a larger part, in next years Westminster Election than the Anglocentric commentariat will acknowledge.