The British elections: A minority government

Said Shehata
Wednesday 6 May 2015

The British parliamentary elections that will be held on 7 May could lead to a minority government. No party is confident to receive the majority, which is 326 seats out of 650

The Conservative party denied the Liberal Democrats’ claim that David Cameron admitted in a private conversation that he would not win the majority. However, polls and debates in the last few days before the elections confirm speculations of the inability of any party to win a majority. Therefore, there will be two scenarios, either a coalition (a hung parliament), as what happened in 2010 between the conservative and Liberal Democrats parties, or a minority government.

It is difficult to think of a repeat of what happened in 2010 between the two parties, but if there is a coalition, it will be between those two parties. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats leader, recently said he would initially talk exclusively to the party leader with the biggest mandate. There are many reasons why this scenario may take place. First, the Liberal Democrats might change their mind regarding the referendum on the EU if reforms are achieved and the results of this referendum are in favor of remaining in the union. However, Nick Clegg may not want to risk his credibility once again after breaking his promise on university tuition fees. Second, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is not going to get the required seats to form a coalition with the Conservative party.

While the issues of immigration and migration are one of the main reasons for the rising star of UKIP, the party has not achieved momentum lately before the elections. UKIP will get more seats but not enough to replace the Liberal Democrats as a potential partner with the Conservative party. UKIP is only known for its stand on immigration and its views on public services, but has no other policies to attract a wider circle of voters.

Third, the Labour party excluded the possibility of forming any coalition with the Scottish National Party (SNP). Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, in the BBC Question Time programme on 30 April, pledged not to do any deal with the SNP and said he would rather be in opposition than to form a coalition with them. It should be noted that the UK has witnessed five coalition governments in the twentieth century.

A minority government is the likely outcome of this election. David Cameron faced difficulties during his first five years as a prime minister dealing with Nick Clegg. He expressed the need for a sole majority to implement his programme without having to compromise with any party. He said during the 30th April Question Time programme that “I'm going to spend the next seven days flat out for victory... rather than have the manifesto bartered away in a dark room with Nick Clegg or someone".

David Cameron might benefit from history if he looks at what happened when Harold Wilson of Labour composed a minority government in 1974 for 10 months. After, Wilson called for an election and Labour won the majority. It is not a long-term solution because of the difficulties involved in passing bills through the House of Commons. It takes time and effort to pass any bill if a government has no majority in the parliament. Therefore, Cameron might do the same, hoping that elections in a years time could secure a majority for him. Many things could happen during the year to help him to win majority, such as a reformed EU or an improvement in the National Health Service (NHS). This scenario applies to Ed Miliband, since the race is neck and neck between the Labour and Conservative parties.

Finally, here are some final remarks about this election:

The Conservative party will win more seats than Labour because the economy improved under Cameron compared to under the last Labour government. In addition, Ed Miliband seems to concede under pressure. For example, when he was asked about any deal between the SNP, he categorically excluded it. However, he could have left the door open by saying any deal with the SNP would not come at the expense of the country's unity.

On the contrary, Cameron seems more experienced when giving answers and polls were in his favour after the Question Time Programme. In addition, Cameron repeatedly mentioned his pledge for a referendum on the EU. He said, “I will not lead a government that doesn’t have that referendum in law and carried out.” This is an important issue for voters in the UK and could help Cameron win some more seats.

Moreover, an increase in voter turnout in this election will be seen, because of the issues at stake, such as the NHS, tax, employment and immigration. Ordinary people will be motivated to have their say to protect their interests. The heat about migrants- especially from Eastern Europe- and pressure on schools, hospitals and housing will be an added factor to vote this time.

Furthermore, it should be noted the absence of any debate about Arabs in the lead up to this election as there has been in the past.

The writer is a political analyst.


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