Twenty-four hours after polling stations closed, the country still does not know the name of its next Prime Minister.
Reports late this evening suggest that the Conservatives- 20 seats short of an overall majority- are in lengthy negotiations with Lib Dem leaders in order to broker a deal and form a joint government. This would mean David Cameron becoming PM, but there is a strong likelihood of Lib Dems being offered cabinet positions.
The areas of policy being discussed are not known, although Cameron promised to make “a big, open and comprehensive offer” to the Lib Dems. Students will hope Clegg sticks to policies which garnered much support among the student population, such as abolishing tuition fees and electoral reform. Current speculation is that a policy deal would involve agreement on tax reforms, a low-carbon economy and opposition to Labour’s ID card scheme.
If the Lib Dems and Conservatives cannot agree, Gordon Brown has stated that he is also willing to negotiate a coalition with the Lib Dems, although this would not be enough to give them a majority. If no agreement can be reached, the potential of a Tory minority government attempting to lead alone cannot be written off. However, this would be unlikely to be tenable as a long term solution.
In reality, the situation is wide open, and it may not be until next week before we know where we stand. Coalition governments are often unstable, and with the inevitable friction that will come with cuts to the public sector, students should not be surprised if they are heading back to the polling stations before too long.
In Southampton, former Liberal Democrat MP Sandra Gidley fell to Conservative Caroline Nokes in the Romsey and Southampton North constituency. Gidley stated that “Unfortunately, the Conservative campaign has been negative and personal, and it only demonstrates that the Tory party, at heart, has not changed at all. However, I wish the people of Romsey & Southampton North all the very best, and wish them well with their new MP.”
Labour MPs John Denham and Alan Whitehead held on in Southampton Itchen and Test respectively. Denham won by less than 200 votes after a massive swing of 10.3% to the Conservatives transformed Southampton Itchen from a safe seat to one of the closest in the country. Whitehead also saw his majority shrink after a 6.9% swing in favour of Conservative Jeremy Moulton. The Lib Dems faired relatively poorly in both these seats, with no other party making an impact. In the local elections, the Conservatives retained strong control of Southampton City Council.
In other election news, Green party leader Caroline Lucas made history by winning the party’s first seat in Brighton Pavillion. BNP leader Nick Griffin suffered humiliation after his much publicised campaign in Barking, East London, failed to bring him anywhere near Labour’s Margaret Hodge. Griffin finished a whopping 18,000 votes behind Labour, with a smaller share of the vote than his party recieved in 2005.