What Will a Multi-Party System Mean for Britain?


It’s looking increasingly likely that the after May 7th Britain will once again looking at a hung parliament. Using collated polling by The Spectator it is reasonably evident that neither the Conservatives or Labour will even get 300 seats, let alone the 326 required for a majority. So what does this mean? Will the nation grind to a halt? Will we be plunged into total darkness? Will Russell Brand sneak into 10 Downing Street and declare himself leader of a new UK-wide commune?

Unfortunately, nothing that exciting will occur. Rather, we’ll just be subjected to hours of news coverage as sleepless politicians scamper in and out of big London townhouses, carrying important looking dossiers under their arms and even more important looking cups of coffee in their free hands as the Jag pulls up to take them to another townhouse. Eventually (and, unlike in 2010, it may take some time) one of these bedraggled politicians will emerge victorious and gain royal assent to form a government.

At this still fairly early stage, there looks to be scenarios in which either David Cameron or Ed Miliband can end up as PM. Neither look set for a majority, so will have to make do with finding political partners prepared to push them over the threshold and into power. At the outset, this looks easier for Miliband, who has somehow managed to not sink the entire Labour Party under the weight of his own ineptitude, since he has a readymade ally north of the border. The SNP will likely win 35-55 seats, enough to create a majority when combined with Labour. This alliance would likely not be a coalition (something Miliband has ruled out) but a supply-and-demand deal, whereby Labour makes concessions to the SNP in return for support in passing major legislation. Nicola Sturgeon and her likely chief lieutenant, Alex Salmond (remember him?), will no doubt be eager for further devolution of powers north of the border and seem likely to support Labour’s plans to increase public service spending and increase taxes on the wealthiest in society.

For Cameron, it’s a little more complicated. He likely needs the Tories to win around 290 seats before he can even begin to look at building alliances, which is feasible, but would require a fairly major shift towards the Conservatives in the run up to the election. The Liberal Democrats should be able to contribute 20-30 seats, but even then this would likely not be enough to keep them in power, meaning a third force would be needed, likely the Democratic Unionist Party; which would be intriguing as a scenario, if only to watch the collective English public scramble to Wikipedia to research the DUP.

It seems like these will be the battle lines for the election campaign and Cameron seems to be stuck in a bind. He’s obviously concerned about UKIP cutting into his vote, so might try and move to the right, but this will alienate the Lib Dems, who needs as coalition partners, and also won’t let him hold an EU referendum. If Cameron does get back into power he will once again be forced to compromise on policy, whilst Labour and the SNP seem like more natural political bedfellows and will likely provide less moderate governance. But either way, there should be plenty of intrigue in the week (or weeks) following the ballot on May 7th.

Feature image by Jordan Stewart.

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2nd Year Modern History and Politics student. Moans a lot about politics, unlikely to actually do anything about it. Direct complaints towards @FSGLoveman on Twitter.

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