A few weeks remain until the British electorate cast their votes in one of the most important general elections in a generation. The campaign has got off to an unspectacular start with a wholly negative campaign being fought on both sides. The UK-wide polls of polls remain pretty much neck and neck and the majority of spectators except the Conservatives and Labour seem to realise that no one party will achieve an absolute majority. Although recent polls show UKIP falling back to roughly the 12 per cent mark and the Greens hovering around 7 per cent, this continues to be one of the most fractured yet open elections in UK history.
The most defining feature of this election though is not the rise of the UK Independence Party; it’s not the Green surge or the pending Lib Dem catastrophe, but the political tsunami enveloping Scotland. The latest poll by TNS saw the SNP at 52 per cent and Labour flailing at 24 per cent. This poll would look like an anomaly if it wasn’t for the last 24 polls which have all shown a commanding SNP lead ranging from 10-28 points. These all coincide with the end of the referendum last September, one in which the Yes campaign lost by 55-45 per cent. But these polls therefore equate to the numbers of the referendum and make absolute sense. The 45 per cent who voted yes have more or less stuck with the SNP and this also mirrors the 45 per cent who voted for them in the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections.
All this is a visible contrast to the 2010 general election where Scottish Labour won 42 per cent of the popular vote and took 41 seats out of 59, way ahead of the SNP who picked up 6 seats on about 20 per cent of the vote. This was only fractionally ahead of the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. If these polls are to be proved accurate, it would herald an enormous increase in the SNP vote and in the process win nearly every seat in Scotland. This electoral whitewash would be something which has not been seen in the UK since the 1920s and rarely ever seen in European politics.
The TV debates are another addition to the British election campaign. Imported from America for the 2010 election, three debates were held and they are known for introducing Nick Clegg to the electorate. This resulted for a while in ‘Cleggmania’ which saw his popularity and recognition spiral and at the same time increase the Liberal Democrats’ ratings in the polls. The debate during the campaign that occurred on the 2nd of April was noted for having seven participants of which three were women. This has been another area where the Scottish National Party has gained hugely with its leader, Nicola Sturgeon making a considerable impression. A poll commissioned by You Gov after the debate even had her winning it with 28 per cent of the vote.
Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister of Scotland since November after Alex Salmond stepped down. Before that she was deputy First Minister since 2007 and has been seen as a formidable operator. The debate opened her up to a UK-wide audience and many on the left in England have praised her performance and the policies she espouses. This surge in popularity across the UK and not just Scotland makes the current seat predictions more likely and puts the SNP in a poll position in the event of a hung parliament.
Most predictions for the election outcome show a slight lead for Labour but 40 or so seats short of an overall majority. Both Labour and the SNP have ruled out a formal coalition but this was never a likely prospect due to the contempt between both parties. However an agreement such as supply and demand is a likely prospect if the SNP wins enough seats to help Labour reach that magical number of 323 (Sinn Féin MPs don’t take their seats). Labour have not emphatically ruled this out, they just continue to repeat the mantra that they are working towards a majority, which goes without saying.
The left therefore have an advantage in the scenario where the Tories win most seats but not a majority. It is likely that Cameron would form a minority government in the interim period. But as soon as the Queen’s speech comes about, the parties of the left; Labour, Plaid, SNP, SDLP and Greens would have more MPs than the Tories put together and could vote down the new government. This would effectively ‘lock’ Cameron out of office and give Miliband the initiative to form a new government.
No matter how many seats the SNP gain in May, it is likely to create ripples across the UK. The question rather, is how big the wave will be. The 2007 and 2011 Scottish elections saw two minor political earthquakes in Scotland and this time the SNP have extended the revolution to Westminster in light of the close-run referendum. The potential for change if Sturgeon’s party holds the strings is colossal. The SNP’s anti-austerity, social democratic policies have the potential to give Westminster the shake-up it so desperately needs. It looks as if this SNP surge has no end in sight.