Saturday 2 January 2010

2010 - A critical year in UK Politics

Hello, Happy New Year! My first post for the new year and new decade. To start off with I thought I'd get a bit political.

At the beginning of every year, predictions are made on how the next 12 months will develop. During the last week, I've been thinking about how 2010 will be a massive year for British politics. We've got a General Election coming up, and I'm fully expecting a change of government and a new Prime Minister, but that's when things will start to get really interesting.

Towards the end of last year it was announced that for the first time in British election history, there would be three live election debates featuring the leaders of the three main political parties.

It's immediately added a completely new dimension to this year's election. I can see it becoming a permanent feature in future election campaigns. All very similar to US Presidential elections.

I've heard many people say that the biggest winners from this decision will be the Liberal Democrats as it elevates their profile to levels which they normally struggle to reach, I also think they have less to lose.

Things are different for David Cameron and Gordon Brown. As front runner, the live debates allow Cameron to cement his position as Prime Minister in waiting, but he'll also be under more scrutiny then he's possibly been under before. He potentially has more to lose then the other leaders.

As for Gordon Brown, he and his government are already unpopular and trailing in the polls. He's the underdog, so it many ways he's got nothing to lose. Perform badly, and it's another nail in the coffin, but do well and it will put more pressure on the Conservatives.

Although I'm expecting the Conservatives to win and for David Cameron to become the new Prime Minister, I think it will be the closest fought election since 1992, with a much bigger turnout than some people maybe imagining.

The results for the last three elections in 1997, 2001, and 2005, were largely already known. Everyone knew that Labour would sweep into power in 1997, and in the following two elections the result was never really in doubt.

In this year's election, the Conservatives will win but I'm not convinced that they'll get an overall majority. I can see it being a hung parliament just like in 1974 with the Tories being the largest party but not having an overall majority!

There's a number of reasons why I believe this. Firstly, its often overlooked at just how few seats the Conservative currently have in parliament, just 193 compared to Labour's 349. They require a huge swing in the polls, roughly around 7% just to have a majority of one.

Secondly, despite Labour and Gordon Brown's unpopularity, I still don't feel there is this great wave of enthusiasm for the Conservatives. Between 1996 and 1997 I always felt there was this unstoppable momentum building up behind Tony Blair and New Labour.

When they won in 97 it felt as the country was beginning a new political era. I don't feel this in 2010. Even with a change of government I don't see a fundamental change in direction in the way the country might be governed.

So what happens if we get a hung parliament? what will it all mean? Well I suppose it would be a great result for the Lib Dems as they would potentially hold the balance of power.

Nick Clegg has already said he won't form a government with Labour, but would they form a coalition with the Tories? I don't think so. The Lib Dems would want electoral reform in the form of Proportional Representation for their support, and possibly Vince Cable as Chancellor? I can't see that happening, and besides it isn't in the interest of Labour or Conservatives to end the 'First past the post' voting system.

What I can see happening is the Conservatives forming a minority government and looking to hold a further election within the following 12 months in order to gain a working majority.

All exciting stuff, but as many people have commented on, is this an election that anyone would really want to win? With the current economic situation and the country's finances in such a mess whoever wins faces a mountain of problems.

Whatever happens this year, it's all going to be really interesting and I'm quite looking forward to it all!

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