Behind the Political Spin: The British Election

The United Kingdom‘s first post-Scotland referendum election – is this the end for the Tory government?

David Cameron faces the test of his political career as the enemies gather about in these last hours before the most consequential election in a long time for British politics.

Fresh off of the Scottish referendum’s failure, London now faces a strong Scottish National Party that could end up playing the kingmaker role in this election. The Tory coalition partners the Liberal Democrats are running strong, as is the ultra-right British National Party. In many ways it is a kind of perfect storm for the sitting Prime Minister. While the UK economy seems to be recovering quite nicely, Cameron’s government has never been popular and its partnership with the Liberal Democrats has always had a tenuous quality to it.

Nonetheless, it’s quite remarkable that the United Kingdom is facing a situation in which the Scottish National Party could have such an impact on the direction of leadership in the UK. Ed Miliband has momentum but whether or not this translates into a win for Labour is left to be seen. Prime Minister Cameron was quoted as saying that anything less than a decisive victory for Labour would render their government illegitimate, an interesting notion given the Conservative Party’s reliance on its coalition partner from a different political spectrum. With less than 48 hours until the polls open, analysts are predicting a hung parliament while questions of 11th hour constitutionality are being bandied about disingenuously.

A large segment of the populace remains apathetic to the electoral process in general – and David Cameron in particular. In discussing the legitimacy of a Labour government without more Labour MPs than Tory MPs, the Prime Minister said:

I just think that there’s a massive credibility problem, with this idea that you can have a Labour government, backed by the SNP, only fighting for part of the country, I mean, the concerns of voters that I’m hearing about that are very, very strong.

This is in spite of the agreement of many British constitutional scholars that such a government is not only possible, but legal. In the past couple of weeks leading to the elections, the Conservatives have focused on the potential pitfalls of a Labour minority government backed by the Scottish National Party while Labour’s Ed Miliband has remained largely silent on the issue. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that he believed the largest party should first be allowed to form a government before a minority party is consulted. If an agreement with the largest party cannot be reached, then discussions to form a minority government are not only permissible but a necessity. Clegg’s statements seem to hint at a willingness to work with the Tories to form another government should the Conservatives overcome Labour on election day, but who knows where this drama could lead.

[The Guardian]