Polls for the 2015 general election have just closed and ballot papers will be on their way to counting stations across the country. I’m going to stick my neck out and make a few predictions before the results start to come in.
UKIP: I suspect they will hold on to their current seats and perhaps pick up a couple more, but nothing like the gains which the opinion polls have been predicting. If UKIP do get a chunky percentage of the vote, it will be spread out and is more likely to result in a swing to another party in marginal constituencies (e.g. by splitting the normal Conservative vote) than victory for UKIP. As a result, they will have a big effect but it won’t be played out in terms of seats gained for the party. Farage won’t win the seat he is standing for. Prediction: 3-5 MPs.
Labour: A lacklustre election campaign with an uninspiring leader (they chose the wrong Miliband in my opinion) has left Labour with little chance of winning a majority. The best they can hope for, which is probably the most likely result, is to be the biggest single party, and for the Labour + SNP block to be larger than the Tory + Lib Dem block. Prediction: 270-290 MPs.
Conservatives: Buoyed by a recovering economy and a poor showing by Labour, but let down by a wholly negative election campaign which will have put off many floating votes. Likely to be the second largest party, and may cling onto power if the margin between them and Labour is small enough (fewer than 10 MPs). Outside chance of winning more seats than Labour, but that is the only scenario which would give Cameron a good chance of hanging on - though I expect him to attempt to do so regardless of the result. Prediction: 260-280 MPs.
Liberal Democrats: Rumours of the party being wiped out turn out to be gross exaggerations. The party does far better than expected, though not as well as Nick Clegg will hope (he will hang on to his seat… just). Still have a strong chance of holding the balance of power despite being pushed into fourth place by the SNP, due to their willingness to work with Labour and the Conservatives (the SNP would never be forgiven if they were seen to ’prop up’ a Tory government). Prediction: 25-35 MPs.
Scottish National Party: Will sweep the board in Scotland, mostly hitting Labour as the Conservatives have little to lose. Likely to be the third largest party, and will probably hold the balance of power if Labour have the most seats. Expect them to bargain hard for yet more freebies for Scotland, and for this to cause huge resentment in England within a few years. with stronger calls for the West Lothian question to be addressed. Prediction: 45-55 MPs.
Greens: Caroline Lucas will hang on to her seat in Brighton and that will be the only highlight of the night for the Greens. There will be renewed grumbling about the unfairness of First Past the Post as the Greens receive sufficient votes to win multiple seats were proportional representation in effect. Prediction: 1 MP.
I’m expecting to wake up tomorrow to find Labour + SNP as the biggest block in Parliament, but for negotiations to take at least a week whilst Cameron tries to counter with a broader coalition including the Lib Dems and some of the smaller parties such as the Democratic Unionist Party. We’ll either end up with a coalition that massively benefits Scotland at the expense of the rest of the UK, as the SNP extract maximum concessions that give them independence without the risk of losing the currency and EU membership, or a Tory-led government intent on taking us out of Europe (which is what I fear will happen if we have a referendum). Neither option looks particularly appealing.