Morus wonders what would happen if…
Imagine that the polls narrow just a little more over the course of a blood-spattered, mud-flinging General Election campaign of only 17 working days that leaves no time for clarity and perspective.
Imagine that quirks of turnout and minor party support combine with a decent Lib Dem showing to befuddle the best laid plans of Mice and Men.
Imagine that the Conservatives, in spite of winning the largest percentage of the vote, are not the largest party in a Hung Parliament – or even that Labour win a toothskin-narrow majority in the Commons.
Just stop and imagine that. What happens to each of the three parties under that circumstance?
Perhaps the Conservatives will suddenly appear a different beast – tolerance for the sandal-wearing, hoodie-and-tree-hugging Cameroon project, and the dulcet tones of Guru Hilton, will surely be cast to the wayside. A new breed of Economically and Socially Liberal (cum Libertarian) MPs and activists thank the leader for his service, but consign him to the same circle of Purgatory as William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, and Michael Howard once occupied: Conservative leaders who never became PM.
The howl of anger from the activist base – once more betrayed by a leadership unable to smite even the most rotten of Governments, once more the arrogance of leadership failing to connect with the country that they suspect wishes them back, once more the putrid sight of their most zealous opponents greased with schadenfreude at their sombre trudge back to the trenches of Opposition.
And from that anger, a new radical wave sweeps the Tory benches – tax-cutters, Eurosceptics, as likely to believe in gay marriage as inheritance tax abolition: a hybrid borne of Cameronian social liberalism and the more virile wing of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Cameron, maybe Osborne too, relegated to the position of Party Elders before their time: a more strident, anti-Green, flat-taxing breed of Young Conservative is offered the knife to wield at a Labour Government in its Fourth and most bedraggled term.
And Labour? Perhaps with the majority of its Old Guard having fled the assumed slaughter, it assembles those too young and too bright to endure the baptism of fire that will greet them. The strategic and governmental inertia, combines with a growing sense of foreboding of an horrific financial future bequeathed to others, and inherited inadvertently.
This ‘new’ Government arrives stillborn at the Dispatch Box, led by a Prime Minister lacking both true allies, or veteran enemies capable of unseating him or constraining his behaviour, yet dragging a party into the abyss of his making with knowledge that this is their 1992 – that cruelest victory, the hack of the Executioner’s axe that did not quite end the life, but ensures complete annihilation when next he swings.
And the Lib Dems – perhaps they, having never been invited to be Kingmakers, are unable and unwilling to prop up the weakest of governments, yet knowing that the next election will likely see a shift of 1997 proportions, consigning them yet again to the wilderness of third party opposition with no hopes of coalition or influence.
And how long does this last? That’s the betting market I want to see…
(who, for the record, still expects a Tory majority of 40 plus/minus 15 seats)
(DC adds:) If you haven’t already secured your copy of the Total Politics 2010 Election Guide, edited by Morus, it is definitely worth getting and is available here.