Thursday, 15 January 2015

Coalition governments: Which one would you prefer?

The result of the 2010 General Election was so tight that the Tory party had to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in order to sneak back into power. What made this Tory failure so remarkable was the way that they somehow contrived to not win a majority even with a spectacularly unpopular Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) who was dealing with the wake of the biggest peacetime crisis since the 1920s (the global financial sector insolvency crisis).

Since 2010 several alternative political parties have grown dramatically in popularity, with three parties in particular undergoing dramatic rises in membership and general popularity.

The rise of the alternative parties

In 2011 the Scottish National Party formed the first ever majority government in the Scottish Parliament (something that the experts had said was impossible) and in 2014 alone they increased their party membership from 27,000 to well over 90,000 making them by far the 3rd largest party in the whole UK, despite only representing 8% of the UK population. Current polling suggests that the SNP are going to inflict an unprecedented bloodbath on the Labour Party in Scotland which will increase their Westminster contingent from just 6 MPs to as many as 45 of the 59 Scottish seats.

The Green Party have also seen an explosion in popularity since 2010, not least because their MP Caroline Lucas has consistently proven herself to be one of the most diligent and hardworking politicians in Westminster. In May 2014 the Green Party won 3 MEPs in the European election to beat the Liberal Democrats down into fifth place, and by the end of 2015 they had increased their UK wide membership from around 15,000 to over 40,000. 
By the time of the 2015 General Election it looks extremely likely that the Greens will have overtaken the Liberal Democrats to become the 4th biggest political party in the UK in terms of membership (behind only Labour, the Tories and the SNP). Aside from their exponential growth in membership, the Green Party have now become the 2nd most popular party in the 18-24 demographic (after Labour) and they've also now got far more social media followers than the Liberal-Democrats, and their page easily outperforms those of the three Westminster establishment parties in terms of Facebook % reach (suggesting that the quality of their social media content is higher). 

UKIP have also experienced a massive increase in popularity since 2010. In May 2014 they took 9% of the eligible vote to become the largest UK party in the European Parliament and later that year they poached two sitting Tory MPs (Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless) to gain their first ever elected MPs (albeit in low turnout by-elections where their candidates were both the sitting MPs). UKIP have also seen their party membership swell dramatically since 2010 (although not as exponentially as the SNP and the Greens). UKIP membership has grown from 15,000 in 2010 to over 40,000 in January 2015.

Other new alternative parties have also sprung onto the scene since 2010. The National Health Action Party work hard to raise awareness of the ideological vandalism of our health system inflicted by the Tories and their Lib-Dem sidekicks; Yorkshire First have sprung up to call for greater devolution of political power to Yorkshire (which has almost exactly the same population as Scotland); Ken Loach has launched a new left-wing party called Left Unity; and a few celebrity candidates are standing for minor parties too, most notably Bez who is standing for The Reality Party in Salford and Al Murray (The Pub Landlord) who is standing in South Thanet for Free United Kingdom Party (FUKP) against UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Another coalition

I'm no psephologist, but it seems sensible to conclude that if the 2010 General Election resulted in a coalition government, the exponential growth in popularity of alternative political parties since 2010 suggests that another coalition government is a distinct likelihood.

The Tories are clearly under threat of losing several seats to UKIP and the Labour Party looks set to lose dozens of seats in Scotland due to their spectacularly suicidal strategic decision to openly side with the Tories in the Scottish independence debate (in this article I explain why it was such a poor move, and what they should have done differently had they not been so strategically inept).

The Liberal Democrats also look set to lose seats as a result of their decision to ditch most of their popular policies in order to jump into support the malicious scheming of Tories like Iain Duncan Smith (the DWP reign of terror), Michael Gove (over 3,000 state schools privatised without most people even knowing about it), Theresa May (one draconian attack on our rights and liberties after another), Andrew Lansley (architect of the massive top-down reorganisation of the NHS that David Cameron promised us he wouldn't do) and George Osborne (borrowed more in 4 years than every Labour government in history combined).

Of course it is by no means certain that there will be some kind of coalition government come May 2015, especially since (thanks to their rogues gallery of wealthy backers) the Tories have an election fighting fund that dwarfs all of the other parties combined and because the Tory dominated mainstream press will be pushing a relentlessly pro-Tory agenda until the election. However, the additional resources and the media bias didn't help them achieve a majority last time around and it's very hard to see what's so different that these advantages will work better for them in 2015.

Possible coalitions

In this section I'm going to run through some of the possible scenarios in May 2015 if there no single party wins enough seats to form a majority government on their own.

This is probably the most likely potential coalition, especially if the SNP win 40 odd seats and surpass the Lib-Dems as the third biggest party in Westminster. In my view a Labour-SNP coalition could be highly unstable due to constitutional reasons (part of the government would not be able to vote on issues that only effect England, so reversal of the ideological vandalism done by the Tories to the English NHS and English education system might be very difficult to achieve). Then there's the fact that a significant proportion of the Labour Party in Scotland seem to hate the SNP even more passionately than they hate the Tories!

The Lib-Dems are going to lose an awful lot of seats in May 2015, but they're likely to still keep a couple of dozen in their English strongholds. I imagine that Labour would much prefer to share power with the Lib-Dems than the SNP because both parties subscribe to the right-wing Westminster economic consensus that has been in place since 1979, but the Lib-Dems are certainly going to pick up fewer seats than they did in 2010, so they'll be significantly less likely to hold the balance of power this time around.

Who on earth would want to see a repeat of this freakshow? The last four and a half years have witnessed an unprecedented combination of outrageous incompetence, illiberal attacks on our rights and freedoms and outright malice. However, just because nobody in their right minds would want it to happen again, that's no guarantee that it won't.

Given the electoral carnage Labour look set to suffer in Scotland, they may have to form a multi-party coalition 
in order to gather enough support to form a majority government, featuring any of the Lib-Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Green Party and/or Northern Irish parties. There would obviously be a lot of issues if the coalition was made up of several different parties, but the fact that the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the SNP are all fellow members of the Green-European Free Alliance grouping in the European Parliament suggests that these three should be capable of working reasonably well together as part of a multi-party government.

The Green Party surge would have to really pick up pace in the next four months if they intend to win enough seats to hold the balance of power. It would be a huge disappointment to the Greens if Caroline Lucas lost her seat after all of her hard work in the last five years, and they have some decent electoral prospects in Norwich, Bristol and the South West. However I think they really need to be more ambitions and think of turning Liverpool into a Green city if they want to win enough seats to increase their chances of joining the government. Whether the Greens might join forces with Labour in their own right, or as part of a "rainbow coalition", they could have a very interesting effect on the Labour Party by dragging them back towards the social democratic policies that they abandoned in the 1990s when Blair and Brown usurped the party and converted it to Thatcherism-lite.

This is an disturbingly atrocious scenario. A Tory-UKIP coalition would be a dangerously fanatical right-wing Tory government full of maniacs like Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and Theresa May that isn't willingly propped up by a bunch of orange book Liberals on a political suicide mission, but actively dragged even further to the right by a "Thatcherism on steroids" party that is 90% bankrolled by people who defected from the Tory party because they weren't extreme enough!


People may scoff at this one, but it's not like they haven't worked together on a number of projects in recent years. They joined forces to oppose Scottish independence, their councilors in Brighton have colluded together to undermine the minority Green Party administration there and force them to carry out the central government dictated cuts regime, and Labour have regularly voted in favour of Tory legislation such as Iain Duncan Smith's Retroactive Workfare bill, DRIP and George Osborne's bizarre Austerity Posturing vote in January 2015. If we look at Greece we can see an example of the two former political giants having to share power in order to keep out the new party (Syriza), and in Spain the two main parties (PP and PSOE) may have to join forces in order to keep out Podemos (who have grown from nothing into the most popular party in Spain in just nine months). So two long established foes joining forces in order to hang desperately onto political power isn't as completely unthinkable as it might seem.

Other coalition combinations are mathematically possible, but the idea of UKIP sharing power with Labour, or either of the SNP or the Greens sharing power with the Tories look outlandishly unlikely in reality.

Which one would you choose?

Assuming that the next government is to be a coalition government, which of the options outlined above looks the most appealing to you? And which potential coalition would have you making sure your passport is up-to-date so that you can find somewhere else in Europe to reside if it were to come true?

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