With the general election in 2015 getting ever closer, all parties will be gaming scenarios and strategizing for every possible outcome. In their perfect worlds, Labour and the Conservatives will certainly both be hoping for majorities at the next election, and while the Lib Dems won’t be expecting to win outright, they’ll be keen to hold on to as many of their 57 seats as possible.
What of the worst case scenarios? Well, as Lib Dem blogger Stephen Tall outlined today, one of Clegg’s biggest fears is that the Lib Dems will be put in a situation where they could form a coalition with either of the two largest parties. Specifically – and this is a situation that could well come to pass if Scottish independence is rejected in 2014 – if Labour wins more seats but the Conservatives win more of the popular vote. In that situation there would be no clear starting point, and tensions and bitterness both within the Lib Dems and with the other two main parties could grow.
For both Cameron and Miliband anything less than outright majority puts their jobs at risk – and even then, slim majorities will prove difficult to manage and the risk is another general election wouldn’t be far behind. While Ed Miliband has been on the front foot since Conference season, that hasn’t yet translated into a poll bounce, and the Conservatives are still not yet on course for a majority.
If the UK is on course for another coalition, one of the key issues will be the ‘red lines’. Raising the personal tax threshold to £12,500 is a key policy for the Lib Dems, but while the Conservatives look set to pledge a similar policy, Labour have so far been critical: in the heat of negotiation, would Labour give way? What policy would be dropped to find the money, and what concession might the Lib Dems have to make in return? One thing is for sure; both Labour and the Conservatives will be spending a lot of time in 2015 studying each other’s manifestos.
The National Liberal Party
There was a strong suggestion in the media that the Prime Minister would be upset or angry at this week’s rallying call for a new Conservative National Liberal Party to appeal to younger people from Planning Minister Nick Boles. While the plan from Boles – who is seen as an über-moderniser in the Conservative party well known for his call early on in 2010 for a two term coalition with the Liberal Democrats – is a long way from being put into action, his comments provided ammunition for Ed Miliband to attack Cameron over his party’s lack of young voters at PMQs.
Yet leaving aside an uncomfortable session at PMQs, Cameron is in reality likely to see Boles’ comments in a more positive light. His message is essentially the same that Francis Maude made back in 2005 – that people may like Tory policies but they don’t like the Tories – and his ideas could not only provide fresh impetus to the party’s efforts to reengage with young people, but also offer a counterbalance to the view that the party should move to the right to counter UKIP.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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