In just under 120 days there will be a general election in Great Britain. It will be a cliff hanger and the race to replace the current coalition government is on. It will get nasty, it will become bitter and it will be a spectacle to watch.
The key problem the electorate faces is that there are genuine choices. They can vote Conservative and get an uncertain future, but it is clear that that future involves austerity, privatization and the rich getting richer and more evenings watching the smug David Cameron getting smugger. They can vote Labour and for the least effective Labour leader since Michael Foot and get austerity, more commitment to public spending and confusion. They can vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and get the pub landlord Nigel Farage, a get tough on immigration and out of Europe policy and very little else. They can vote Liberal and support the ineffectual Nick Clegg and get confusion, sidestepping and populism but little substance. Or they can chose one of the other myriad of options – Green, Monster Raving Looney and, in Scotland, the Scottish National Party (and Plaid Cymru in Wales).
What will happen is that no one will win. It is likely that UKIP and/or the Scottish Nationalist Party will hold the balance of power in the Commons. There could either be a minority Government (probably conservative) or a coalition – David Cameron has refused to rule out another Liberal coalition or a coalition with UKIP.
If the Conservatives do retain control of the government agenda, then we can expect the more rapid privatization of schools, an in/out vote on Europe (“Should Britain stay as a full member of the European Union?” – Yes or No) and further austerity.
The battle lines will focus on the economy, the National Health Service, immigration and EU. While there will be lot of noise about other issues – climate change, roads and infrastructure, social security, debt, labour and the nanny state – the economy will drive this election.
The pollsters will have a tough time. Voting intentions will shift a lot during the next 120 days and the predictions will be off by 5% or more, which is the difference between the parties.
A lot will come down to personality. None are especially appealing – they are all career politicians except Nigel Farage, who doubles as an advert for British beer. The standard view is “none of the above, but if pushed…”. Milliband has not connected with voters, Cameron is a smooth talking toff supported by Osborne (another toff), Nick Clegg is a wimpish, skittish, untrustworthy toff and Nigel Farage is Enoch Powell reincarnated without the intellectual skills and vocabulary. Its not pretty. But it will be fascinating. Trust me.