Is Britain about to become ungovernable? Is the election about to end in a dead heat in which neither of the main political parties will be able to form a stable administration? Are we about to follow in the footsteps of Belgium which, in 2010-2011, went 589 days without a government?
Speculation about the likely outcome of Thursday’s poll has centred on the likelihood of a Red-Tartan alliance, a Labour minority government propped up by as many as 50 SNP MPs. That remains the most plausible result, but the national mood seems to be changing. The public in England is becoming increasingly alarmed about the prospect of a separatist, far left phalanx of Scots shaping the destiny of a country in which they do not believe – the United Kingdom.
Repeated warnings by David Cameron and leading Tories that on current trends the SNP would end up holding a Miliband government to ransom appear to be hitting home. More and more English voters are beginning to appreciate that by voting Labour they are voting for an alien government in which a sizeable proportion of MPs are actively working for the demolition of the very country that are helping to govern. It is one thing for Westminster to accommodate a handful of nationalists agitating for a special deal for the narrow interests they represent. It is quite another for a bloc of nationalists to be jostling Miliband for control of the national steering wheel.
The penny (or should that be the groat) is beginning to drop in England. Since the SNP has positioned itself as the driving force behind an anti-Tory alliance, vowing to lock Cameron out of Downing Street, a vote for Labour is by extension a vote for Nicola Sturgeon – a vote for a constitutional crisis and a vote for utterly irresponsible economic and security policies. Cameron has already warned of “ten days to save the UK” – he needs to go on driving that message home in the final week of the campaign.
No one is claiming that the polls have shifted decisively in Cameron’s favour – and today’s surveys point to more of the same: the tightest of races. But there has been a slight move in the Tories’ direction, who now lead by one point on the poll of polls. The pressure on Ukip supporters to “come home” to their natural political allegiance is growing. Equally, its support is holding up remarkably well considering its lack of favourable media coverage and the way that its star turn, Farage, has been forced to concentrate on his personal fight for survival in Thanet South.
It may well be that Tory support will build in the final days of the campaign, giving the party around 280 seats. Meanwhile, Labour’s advance stalls at around 270. Add on 45 seats for the SNP and the Left bloc is left eight short of the finishing line of 323. Equally, the Tories plus 10 DUP MPs and 25 Lib Dems are also left wanting. Neither the Left bloc nor the Right bloc has the numbers to govern with any degree of certitude. We are back to Belgium 2010. No credible arrangement of the parties can produce a decisive result.
If neither Cameron nor Miliband can get a Queen’s Speech through the Commons, then there will have to be a second election. But will that break the deadlock?
There is one ray of light, however. Belgium, without a government, thrived with healthy growth and falling unemployment. Quite whether Britain could manage the same trick remains to be seen.