Britain’s hotly contested election is causing a stir
We are currently witnessing the most closely contested election in British politics in over 20 years. The country is now ready to take to the polls and cast its ballots. Amid all the speculation and uncertainty, most analysts can agree on one only fact: there won’t be a strong majority.
Opinion polls indicate that David Cameron and the ruling Conservative party are closely tied with Ed Miliband and the Labour party currently in opposition. If neither party wins an outright majority, as looks likely, one of them will be forced to create a coalition government with a smaller party. The Liberal Democrats, at present in coalition with the Conservatives, could potentially go either way.
More controversially, the Scottish National Party which has risen from almost nothing, is taking centre stage in the election battle. Its fierce leader Nicola Sturgeon has won over the Labour vote across Scotland, but Cameron is warning that the SNP could team up with Labour and hold the party hostage, only contributing to a majority government if they can push through measures that benefit the Scots and get rid of Trident nuclear deterrent at the expense of the rest of Britain. That’s certainly a very frightening scenario, albeit perhaps a slightly exaggerated one.
The uncertain political outlook is giving rise to economic concern: the markets fear volatility and the two main parties have very different approaches. The Conservatives are trumping the fact that the economy has grown 8.4% since they came to power in 2010. They say that the country is only just beginning to enjoy the sacrifices made and that their efforts are still in progress. A Conservative-led government is likely to cut corporation tax and has promised to halt the rise of income tax, winning it the support of the country’s leading business figures. Over 100 senior executives, including, to Miliband’s embarrassment, five businessmen who previously supported Labour, have said that Conservative economic policies signal that the UK is business-friendly and this will boost the recovery.
Labour, however, argues that most average Britons do not feel the benefit of any economic progress. A Labour-led government is likely to increase minimum wage and public sector wages, and has pledged to slow down the overall pace of spending cuts.
On top of this debate about economic policy is the possibility of a market-shaking referendum. A Conservative victory could lead to a referendum on staying in the EU. Although Cameron is in favour of the Union, he is keen to quieten the far-right, anti-EU, UKIP voice and give the public their vote. Meanwhile, the SNP, if they form a coalition with Labour, may demand another referendum on Scottish independence.
As the sterling and stock markets come under pressure, shaking at the prospect of political deadlock or dispute, the people of Britain will make their decision. Any outcome is possible. And with such strong emotions and convictions coming from multiple factions of the society, a few may need to remind themselves of the wisdom of Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms.”