After the strange election of 2010, which saw Labour and the Tories realise that they might have to consider sharing power, much thought has been given to the possibility of another hanged parliament emerging after the 2015 election, barely a month away.
There are three big little parties that are likely to play a role in determining the election - though I do not think it is likely the UKIP will have much to do in the actual parliament that is formed from it.
If we accept that the polls are broadly accurate and neither Tories nor Labour will form a majority, then the question is, how will they fnd themselves placed in relation to the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the SNP?
(There are a gaggle of other parties, many from Northern Ireland, but as their political behaviour is incomprehensible even to themselves, it is best to pretend that they do not exist, unless we really have to.)
The Lib Dems will likely lose a large number of seats, perhaps actually achieving an electoral first for them, with their share of vote matching their share of seats (usually, their share of vote wildly exceeds the number of seats they win - but, cruel coalition has diminished their support from a robust 25% to a parlous 5%).
The SNP will win an awful lot of seats in Scotland - though not, I suspect as many as their current share of vote suggests on a universal swing, which suggests they would win virtually every seat in Scotland. First Past The Post is a funny beast, and Scottish voters funnier still. It is likely the SNP will win 25 to 30 seats, maybe even 35. And that would be a truly impressive result, and likely have a decisive impact on the British election. But - if expectations are not cannily managed then it will seem like something of a disappointment.
The SNP have ruled out working with the Tories and set all sorts of bottom line issues, notably around the replacement of the Trident nuclear missile system.
I think it is far more likely that the SNP will find it in their hearts to compromise on Trident.
In spite of their good running, they are actually in a tricky position.
If the Tories are the largest party in in a hanged parliament, and the SNP are in a position to stop them getting into power, but do not, the SNP will be abjured by the Scottish voters.
The Scottish public will not countenance a Tory led government being tacitly supported by the SNP over something the Scottish public aren't quite as vehement about as the SNP are.
It is also worth pointing out that many people in Scotland have jobs that depend on military spending. I grew up in Helensburgh, beside the Faslane submarine base. We didn't like having it there, but we didn't like the idea of not having it there either, as it brought in so much money to the town.
It is (slightly) interesting that the SNP boost is not coming entirely at Labour's expense. A lot of it seems to be the anti-Tory, anti-Labour, anti-Nats who have traditionally voted Lib Dem, which is the bloc that has resulted in the Lib Dems always being over-represented in Scotland.
The reality is that the SNP will be under immense pressure to support Labour, because a lot of their support is former Labour that will be disgusted if the SNP do not help Milliband into Downing Street and help keep him there.
About 12% of the SNP vote (according to polling analysis) is from Labour, and it is the most volatile. They aren't interested in Independence, but are interested in pushing Labour into power and pushing Milliband to the left - it's a tactic to outflank the still powerful Balirite pseudo-conservative, anti-progressive right wing of the party.
The other 12% of the SNP's new support is largely drawn from the Lib Dems, who have always enjoyed an unusually high degree of support in Scotland. That's largely because of the peculiar nature of Scottish politics.
No-one is suggesting, I think, that the Highlands and Islands are havens for those concerned with Gay rights and electoral reform.
But these far flung Scottish constituencies are full of people who won't vote Tory (too English in profoundly conservative rural Scotland), won't vote Labour (too urban in profoundly conservative rural Scotland) and won't vote SNP (too nationalist in profoundly conservative rural Scotland) so they schizophrenically vote for the Lib Dems. Now that vote seems to have shifted to the SNP - along with a fair chunk of Labour's vote.
It looks like being the most interesting election in aeons, or at least since 1997.
The SNP and the UKIP are wild cards, but of different sorts. The UKIP may critically injure the Tories in crucial constituencies, allowing Labour or the Lib Dems to win what should have been unwinnable seats. But they (UKIP) won't win many seats at all, just make it harder for the Tories.
The SNP, on the other hand, probably will win a lot of seats, mostly from Labour.
But as the only option for the SNP is to work with Labour, formally or informally, that doesn't hurt Labour nearly as much as the UKIP hurts the Tories.
Also, Miliband has shown he's not useless in debates, so he'll be getting lots of good coverage over the next few weeks. Cameron, on the other hand, is coming across more and more as a loathsome toff turd - A “bunch of hypocritical, holier-than-thou, hopeless, sneering socialists” indeed.
Dave, apart from the last word (which hardly applies to Labour, alas!) you just described your own party. Too a hypocritical, holier-than-thou,, hopeless, sneering tee.
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