Saturday, 1 August 2015

Labour’s Great Ideological Showdown

This summer I’ve become gripped by a new TV drama. A TV drama being played out in front of the nation’s media with episodes of this drama shown on almost every edition of the nightly news. But sadly unlike most TV dramas this isn’t a work of fiction, it’s the Labour Leadership Contest.

The Labour Leadership Contest has turning into a massive duel between the two great traditions of Labour politics. On the one side you have the New Labour establishment represented by Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall. On the other side you have the Old Labour socialist insurgent, Jeremy Corbyn. These are two great titans fighting to the death for the ideological soul of the Labour Party.

What makes this political duel so interesting is that according to the latest opinion polls Jeremy Corbyn is in the lead by some margin and very well could be Labour’s next leader. Corbyn who was initially seen as a distant outsider, has to horror of Blairites, become the favourite to win the contest. Tony Blair even labelled those MPs who nominated Corbyn as “morons”. To put a Corbyn win into some context, Labour hasn’t been led by an overtly socialist leader since Neil Kinnock in 1992. Furthermore, Labour has not been led by someone outside the party’s establishment since at least before the Second World War. Even Michael Foot served as a cabinet minister before becoming Labour’s leader.

As a member of the Liberal Democrats, I cannot even begin to contrast the huge differences between the Labour Leadership Election and the Lib Dem Leadership Election. The Lib Dem Leadership Contest was a mostly private affair conducted at regional hustings and through social media and the internet. The short two month contest resulted in a clear victory for Tim Farron, with Norman Lamb transitioning seamlessly from leadership rival to frontbench Health Spokesperson. Tim Farron has already begun to make his mark by leading Lib Dem MPs to oppose Osborne’s latest welfare cuts. While a divided and indecisive Labour Party chose to abstain in the welfare cuts vote.

Labour quite clearly faces a big battle for the party’s soul, maybe even for the party’s very existence in the long term. But how on Earth did Labour go from promoting its own version of Thatcherism to being on the verge of electing a genuinely socialist leader? Despite New Labour’s three successive election victories, it failed to take many traditional Labour supporters with it. Tony Blair’s gamble was that Labour supporters would remain loyal to the party, despite New Labour’s embrace of the Thatcherite free market. This gamble would only work if there wasn’t a credible progressive alternative to Labour. However recently a progressive alternative emerged in Scotland in the form of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The SNP went on this year to annihilate Labour in Scotland.

New Labour didn’t just alienate people in Scotland but many progressive voters across England and Wales as well. Blair hollowed out the Labour Party leaving behind an ideological void, which Burnham, Cooper and Kendall have struggled to fill. However despite its lack of principles New Labour did achieve three successive election victories, the first and only time Labour has achieved this.

Here’s Labour’s problem, New Labour is as much an outdated project as socialism. New Labour supporters lack a distinctive message in an age of economic insecurities. Burnham, Cooper and Kendall are three career driven, media managed politicians made in the model of New Labour. Corbyn is anything but.  Does Corbyn look like a potential Prime Minister? No, but it seems difficult to see how any of the candidates have the skills, charisma and imagination needed to get Labour back into power.

This Labour Leadership Contest will define the party for a generation. Will the New Labour modernisers triumph or shall socialism be resurrected from the grave? In the aftermath of the vote, there is a great potential for rifts, fractures and SDP-style breakaways. Do I judge those Labour supporters (including a couple of my friends) who back Corbyn? No, I can hardly blame them for supporting a radical candidate in line with their values, when the only alternatives are so bland and unimaginative. 

From what I have seen of Labour’s Leadership Contest, it is clear that Yvette Cooper has the best leadership ability and that Jeremy Corbyn has the strongest values and principles. Regardless of who wins Labour’s great ideological showdown it is clear that the contest will finally determine which direction Labour takes. On the chance that Corbyn does go on to win, then the 2020 General Election will be the most democratically distinctive election since 1987. A genuine socialist party led by Jeremy Corbyn, a genuine liberal party led by Tim Farron and a genuine conservative party led (most likely) by George Osborne would be a fascinating prospect.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Values, Vision and Liberalism: It’s Time for Tim

Following on from a very difficult general election result, the leadership election is on to see who will take the Lib Dems through this tough time. Despite only having eight Members of Parliament, the Liberal Democrats have fielded two fantastic leadership candidates, Tim Farron and Norman Lamb. Both of these candidates are miles ahead of anything on offer in the Labour leadership election.

During our party's time in Coalition with the Conservatives we were undoubtedly a moderating influence on the Tory right. From raising the tax threshold, to the pupil premium, to restoring our civil liberties, to ensuring same-sex marriage, to defending workers rights, the Lib Dems achieved many progressive policies. However it is clear that during our time in Coalition we lost trust and we lost identity.

The party might only have a handful of MPs but it's vital that we choose a leader who is able to inspire Liberal Democrat supporters and regain the trust of those millions of voters that we have lost. The party needs a radical vision and a reassertion of our progressive liberal values. Beyond everything else we need a leader who is going to challenge the status quo of British politics and challenge the inequalities of British society and Britain's political system. I believe Tim Farron is the man to achieve this and to revive the cause of British liberalism.

Tim Farron has grasped a fundamental truth of modern politics, which is that in order to enact change you need to create a movement. A movement from the grassroots to the green benches of the House of Commons. A liberal movement committed to liberty, equality and community. A movement that understands that people need to be free from an overbearing state but also free from poverty and social inequality. Tim Farron has correctly identified the need for a house building revolution in Britain. Such a mission should be at the heart of any liberal movement along with tackling climate change and protecting Britain's human rights, civil liberties and EU membership.

For the last two decades millions of people across the country have become disillusioned and alienated from mainstream politics. This has resulted in the rise of nationalism in both Scotland and England. Those most alienated by British politics have been the most vulnerable members of society. I for one hope that Tim Farron can give a voice to those who have often been left voiceless. A hundred years ago, the Liberal Party was at the heart of a campaign to achieve social reform and to tackle the extreme poverty of the industrial age. Today the Lib Dems need to rediscover the spirit of the new liberals and restore a sense of community and compassion to British politics. The Lib Dems must champion hope over fear.

For any party or movement to succeed it needs a strong campaigning spirit. The community politics of the 1970s proved that even a small party with a few MPs can make a big difference. Tim Farron is a committed and experienced campaigner. He understands the importance of community politics and grassroots campaigning. I've seen first-hand what a committed campaigner Tim is in Westmorland and Lonsdale. He's taken what was a Tory safe seat less than two decades ago and transformed it into the safest Lib Dem seat in the country.

Britain needs radical liberal activism. It needs a liberal movement committed to liberty, social justice, the environment, house building and the EU. It needs the Lib Dems to spearhead this movement in Parliament and at the grassroots. The Lib Dems need a committed experienced campaigner leading the party. We need someone who can restore trust in the Liberal Democrats. We need someone with values, vision and with liberalism in their heart. It’s time for Tim Farron!!!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Where the Lib Dems Went Wrong

For the Liberal Democrats the general election was the worst in terms of seats won since 1970. No one expected the Lib Dems to be reduced to just eight seats. This article will examine where the Lib Dems went wrong and what could account for such a dreadful result.

Losing Trust
The Liberal Democrats were right to go into Coalition, but we made a few massive mistakes none bigger than the decision over tuition fees. For much of the last few decades the Lib Dems prided themselves on trust. In the 2010 general election hundreds of thousands of young voters voted for the party over its policy to abolish tuition fees. Famously, Nick Clegg and a few other Lib Dem MPs broke their pledges not to increase tuition fees (although 21 Lib Dem MPs kept their pledges). This action to increase tuition fees was seen in the eyes of many young voters as a betrayal. Despite the repeated attempts by Nick Clegg and other Lib Dem ministers to explain the new tuition fees policy, their message was simply ineffective given the loss of trust. More than any other issue tuition fees destroyed the Lib Dem reputation for trust from which the party never recovered during its time in Coalition.

Coalition Conformity and the loss of Identity
The Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition was the first coalition since 1945. Therefore the leadership of the Lib Dems felt an added burden on proving that coalitions could result in stable governments. While no one would doubt that the Coalition was stable, the sense of Coalition conformity that resulted from the commitment to the Coalition ended up in a loss of identity for the party. The Lib Dem identity became almost unrecognisable with both Tory and Lib Dem ministers in every major department. The party also completely failed to successfully differentiate itself from its coalition partners. Although we undoubtedly made the Coalition fairer than it otherwise would have been; ultimately the net result of our efforts was to detoxify the Tory party and toxify our own party.

Demolition of the Local Government base
In electoral terms there was clear evidence that the party strategy was not yielding any reward. From 2011 until 2015 the party lost thousands of councillors. For a party that depends on having a strong local government base in order to win at a parliamentary level, this was a major blow to our ambitions at the general election. Added to this the party suffered massive setbacks in Scotland, Wales, London and in the European Elections. Although our local government base held up relatively well in some part of southern England, in northern England and Scotland it was annihilated. We should have realised much earlier on in 2011 or 2012 that the loss of our local government base was a harbinger of disaster in the general election.

Valueless Centrism
The leadership ditched the party's historic centre-left stance in favour of a committed centrism. Their aim was to try and revive the mythical equidistance of the past. At a time when the party leadership needed to renew its distinctive centre-left values it abandoned them. The strategy of equidistance and centrism was always doomed to fail. How can you be truly equidistance when you're in coalition with a centre-right party and refuse to defend your historic centre-left values? The party has never been truly equidistant, even in the Ashdown years the party was closer to the Labour, shown through the speculation of a Labour-Lib Dem coalition in 1992 and the Blair-Ashdown talks of the mid-1990s. Centrist equidistance was a failed strategy instead we should have outlined a much more distinctive left of centre liberal platform to engage our lost voters and to enable us to much more effectively differentiate us from the Tories.

Defending the Status Quo
People don’t vote for coalitions. I hate to say it but it's true. People vote for political parties. To frame an entire election campaign around forming a future coalition alienated voters from the radicalism of the Lib Dems. The party became the only true defender of the Coalition status quo. Instead of giving people reasons to vote for a future Lib Dem government we were giving voters early compromises on a potential future coalition. No party can both claim to be radical and defend the status quo. This was at a time when other parties were challenging the status quo; the Lib Dems became in the eyes of the public the most uninteresting of the parties. The party's leadership lost touch with its core radicalism and instead became the party of "stability, unity and decency.” The Lib Dems should know more than any other party that there are few votes in defending the status quo especially when you are a third or fourth party.

Learning the Lessons
The party has an uphill battle to regain the trust of the public, especially amongst young people. We should ensure that any future signed party pledges are amongst our election priorities. We failed to do this with tuition fees in 2010 and we paid the price.

In any future coalitions instead of trying to cover all departments we should have ministers in the leading departments and have a department entirely for our ministers to demonstrate Lib Dem policies in action. A good example of such a department would be the Department for Education.

The future leadership of the party should realise that if the current strategy is resulting in massive electoral losses that the party should change it promptly. Equidistant centrism has been a disaster for our party; the party will have to return to its centre-left roots if it is to recover its lost support.

Liberals should never defend the status quo, they should always seek to change it. Losing touch with our core radicalism was the final nail in the coffin of the party's electoral ambitions. The party must learn from its lessons so that in the future the great cause of liberalism can rise again.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Why YOU Must Vote!!!

It's that time again, politicians from left and right are out pounding the pavements across the country looking for people to vote for them. The 2015 general election campaign looks like it will be the closest election in decades. Either Labour or the Conservatives could win it and the Liberal Democrats, or the SNP are likely to be the kingmakers.

The political marketplace is now more crowded than it has ever been and yet millions of people at this election will not even bother to vote. Not to mention the fact that hundreds of thousands may not have even bothered to register to vote, many of which will be students. I think this is nothing less than a national tragedy. Our democracy is so important and yet millions are disengaged from it.

Politicians from all parties must of course take some of the blame for the level of political disengagement. Trust in politics is at an all-time low and parties across the spectrum lack distinctive positive visions. Not to mention the fact that many politicians come from privileged social backgrounds that often seem alien to most voters. Despite this fact there are more viable choices to vote for than ever before.

One hundred years ago not a single woman or a single poor person of either gender had the right to vote and we are still one of the significant minority of countries that have a genuine democracy that is free and fair. We cannot take our democracy for granted we must use our voting rights and always seek to improve and reform our democracy.

Beyond all other things democracy embodies political equality. It is the only true and absolute equality that we have. Everyone regardless of wealth, race, gender, class, ability/disability, age and sexual orientation has just one vote. Regardless of whether you are a banker or use a food bank you have just one vote. Regardless of whether you are the Prime Minister or an ordinary person you have just one vote.

British democracy has faced many threats. We achieved universal democracy in the aftermath of the First World War, but our grandparents soon had to fight to defend it against the Nazis in the Second World War. For the five decades that followed, Britain faced an equally big threat to our democracy coming from communism and the Soviet Union.

History has shown us the tireless work of campaigners around the world to achieve democracy; from George Washington to Martin Luther King, from Emmeline Pankhurst to Aung San Suu Kyi, from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela. All of these political campaigners had to fight against those who were prepared to deny them their fundamental democratic rights. Such people didn't struggle to achieve our democratic rights just so they could be squandered by apathy.

Over the next five weeks engage with the political parties and take the opportunity to use your fundamental democratic rights. No one will ever listen to your voice if you are not prepared to use it. Of course there is the feeling that people have been ignored by politicians; so for goodness sake MAKE THEM LISTEN TO YOU!!! Don't be passive and apathetic, MAKE YOUR VOICE COUNT!!! Use the democratic rights that your great-grandmothers chained themselves to Parliament to achieve; and your grandfathers fought a world war to defend. Don't take democracy for granted, because in many parts of the world it does not exist. People from Hong Kong to Cairo are campaigning for democracy today. Even in this so-called advanced democracy; true democracy is less than 100 years old.

There is such a wide range of political parties out there.
The Conservatives have pledged to tackle the deficit with spending cuts and tax cuts.
Labour aims to strengthen social fairness and improve living standards.
The Liberal Democrats are the only party with a commitment to fill the £8 billion funding gap in the NHS, also they have radical plans to ensure civil liberties and political reform.
UKIP want Britain to leave the European Union and stop immigration.
The Green Party wants to stop climate change and renationalise the railways.
The Scottish National Party want to make Scotland an independent country.
These are just the core issues that define the leading parties, they have many more policies as well.

On May 7th ensure your political citizenship by casting a vote. And if you really can't bring yourself to vote for any party, then you should consider standing as an independent. If no-one is prepared to listen to you, then you make them listen to you through campaigning and persuading people. Democracy has the power to radically change things. Apathy is not an option and frankly it is an insult to all those around the world who struggle for democracy.  OUR DEMOCRACY WILL ONLY REMAIN VIABLE IF PEOPLE LIKE YOU BOTHER TO VOTE!!!

Monday, 19 January 2015

My Ideas for the 2015 TV Debates

There is currently a lot of talk in the media about future television debates during the 2015 general election. In 2010 the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats were involved. However now there are calls for the leaders of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the Green Party, the Scottish National party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru to also be included.

Obviously, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party should be included in all three televised election debates. The Liberal Democrats with their record in government over the last five years and there realistic potential to hold the balance of power after the election this year means that they should be included.

UKIP should be included in two of the election debates to take account of their considerable support in the opinion polls, as well as their recent by-election and European Election victories. As for the Green Party, they have seen a notable increase in their support in recent months and this means they should be included in one of the debates. The Green party should not be included in any other debates because they will not hold the balance of power after the general election. This being said if the Green’s support continues to grow after 2015 they might be eligible for more than one debate in 2020.

The SNP have seen a massive surge in their support after the Scotland referendum. They should be included in one debate to take account of this, but due to the fact that they only stand in Scotland, they shouldn't be included in the other two debates. Furthermore there should be Scotland only debates between the main parties in Scotland. The Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru should be included in Wales only debates. As for the national TV debates, I see no evidence to justify why Plaid Cymru should be involved.

I suggest that there should be three TV debates and that there should be a two week period between each debate. In 2015 the general election campaign will last five weeks and with a fortnight gap it will ensure that the campaign isn't entirely dominated by the debates.

The Grand Debate

My idea for the first debate is what I am calling "The Grand Debate." The Grand Debate would include six party leaders. These leaders would be David Cameron (Conservative Party), Ed Miliband (Labour Party), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats), Nigel Farage (UKIP), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) and Natalie Bennett (Green Party). This debate will last for two hours (to take account of the large number of participants) and it would be entirely based on issues of any policy area. This could include questions on the economy, home affairs, foreign affairs, law and justice, the environment, health, education and welfare etc.

The Domestic and Foreign Affairs Debate

The second debate would be entirely on domestic and foreign affairs issues. The duration of this debate would be an hour and a half. 45 minutes will be on domestic affairs and 45 minutes will be on foreign affairs. Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and Farage should all be included in this debate. All of these parties have expressed strong positions on domestic and foreign affairs. The Greens and the SNP should not be included for the reasons stated earlier.

The Prime Ministerial Debate

The purpose of this third and final debate is to discuss economic issues. Like the second debate it would last for one and a half hours. One hour would be devoted entirely to the economy with the final 30 minutes devoted to any policy area. This debate would include the three main party leaders; David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. The purpose of it is to give them an opportunity to outline their economic vision and defend their economic records in government. UKIP should not be included in this final debate due to their lack of a clear narrative on the economy and their primary focus being placed on foreign affairs issues and a few domestic issues.

My TV Election Debate Format

The Grand Debate                                            2nd April 2015        
David Cameron     Ed Miliband     Nick Clegg     Nigel Farage
Nicola Sturgeon     Natalie Bennett
Themes: Any Policy Area (2 Hours)

The Domestic and Foreign Affairs Debate   16th April 2015      
David Cameron     Ed Miliband     Nick Clegg     Nigel Farage
Themes: Domestic Affairs (45 Minutes) Foreign Affairs (45 Minutes)

The Prime Ministerial Debate                       30th April 2015
David Cameron     Ed Miliband     Nick Clegg    

Themes: The Economy (1 Hour) Any Policy Area (30 Minutes)

Sunday, 4 January 2015

My Predictions for the 2015 General Election

I have made a handful of predictions for the 2015 general election based on my own political instincts and knowledge. It will be interesting to see how many of these predictions turn out to be accurate in a few months time. The purpose of this article is merely to catalogue my own political thoughts in January 2015.

There will be another Hung Parliament.
With Labour and the Conservatives so close to one another in the opinion polls it appears that like in 2010 there will be another Hung Parliament. However I'm not brave enough to say whether the Conservatives or Labour will be the largest party in that Hung Parliament.

Regardless of the result questions will still remain over David Cameron’s and Ed Miliband’s Leadership.
Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have faced internal pressures over their leadership. Which ever leader loses the election or is unable to form a government will have to resign. If David Cameron remains Prime Minister he will continue to face internal pressures over Europe and immigration. Should Ed Miliband become Prime Minister he will continue to face criticism from the Blairite right and the socialist left which criticise his leadership style and policy stances.

It’s the Economy (and Living Standards) stupid.
The big issues at the election will be the economy and living standards. The Conservatives will emphasise a stronger economy, while Labour will emphasise improving living standards and the Liberal Democrats will focus on a mixture of both.

Labour and the Conservatives combined will poll less than 70%.
Two party politics is under pressure like never before and in this environment it is unlikely that Labour and the Conservatives together will poll 70% of the vote.

The Liberal Democrats will poll between 12% and 15%.
Much of the electoral analysis over the last few years has focused on the dire state of the Liberal Democrats which are currently polling between 8% and 10%. The Lib Dems will see a notable increase in support prior to election day due to them being an incumbent government party. The Lib Dems will poll between 12% and 15%. This is a considerable improvement but far less than the 23% the party won in 2010.

The UKIP bubble will deflate.
UKIP are polling currently in a strong third-place position however as we draw closer to election day many former Tory and Labour voters will return back to their traditional parties. UKIP could still poll over 10% but much less than their current poll rating between 15% and 18%.

The Green bubble will burst.             
Since the European elections in 2014 the Green Party has had a notable increase in its support even briefly overtaking the Lib Dems on 8%, however this bubble will burst before the general election. The Greens might still poll either 2% or 3% a notable increase on the 1% they won in 2010.

The SNP will defeat Scottish Labour, but it will be close.
The rise of the Scottish National Party seems unstoppable in Scotland. The SNP will probably win the general election in Scotland however it will be much closer than the opinion polls are currently saying with Scottish Labour only a few percentage points and seats behind the SNP.

The Liberal Democrats will hold onto most of their seats where the Conservatives are the main opposition.
While the Lib Dems could see a considerable decrease in their national support in 2015 in the seats that they hold they have a strong incumbency factor. This factor is especially strong in seats where the Conservative Party is the main opposition. Hence the Lib Dems will hold onto the vast majority of their seats in Conservative leaning areas and will win a few marginal seats from the Tories.

There might be a second election.
If the general election in May 2015 has an inconclusive result and no coalition or minority government can be formed it is likely that a second election could be held before the end of the year.

British politics will have changed immensely by 2020.
British politics is at a turning point. 2015 is likely to be the beginning of considerable political change. One party majority government is in decline and Britain is on the verge of becoming a multi-party system with significant support for at least five political parties: the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the SNP. Should any of these parties face a change of leadership in the next few years they will likely take a radically different direction to their current course. The British party system will have changed immensely by 2020. Let's just hope that these are political parties that can inspire the electorate and bring about radical progressive change.

Monday, 29 December 2014

2015: A Landmark Year in British Politics?

The State of the Political Parties

2015 has the potential to be a landmark year in British politics. The general election that is likely to happen on 7th May 2015 is both the most exciting election and the most unpredictable election since 1974. There are six political parties that are getting noteworthy support: the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the Green Party and the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Conservative Party
David Cameron has been the Prime Minister for the last five years and he will be aiming to win a second term in government. It seems very unlikely due to the electoral arithmetic that the Conservatives will win an outright majority. More likely, the Tories could be the largest party again in a Hung Parliament. Over the past year the Tories have been fighting a right wing rearguard action against UKIP; following the defection of two Tory MPs to UKIP in the last few months. The Tories will aim to move the political argument away from immigration and onto the economy. Tory strategists anticipate that their management of the economy will be their biggest vote winner in 2015.

Labour Party
Throughout 2014, the Labour Party has been narrowly ahead of the Conservatives in the opinion polls. If this trend holds until election day, Labour could win the election outright but with a small majority. Failing that, Labour could seek to be the biggest party in another Hung Parliament. Despite Labour being more popular in the opinion polls, Ed Miliband is far less popular than David Cameron in the leadership polls. For Labour the big issue in 2015 is likely to be living standards. Despite reasonable economic growth, there is still considerable youth unemployment and up until very recently inflation was far above wage increases. Unpopular policies like cuts to public services and the bedroom tax as well as the potential for a crisis in the NHS, will be vote winners for Labour in 2015.

Liberal Democrats
Over the last Parliament the Liberal Democrats have lost over half of its electoral support and has been repeatedly hammered at the ballot box. However despite this, the Liberal Democrats are the most likely party to still be in power after May 2015 especially if there is another Hung Parliament. Furthermore, incumbent Lib Dem MPs are on average much more popular than their Labour or Tory counterparts. As a result the Lib Dems might hold onto more seats than the opinion polls are currently predicting due to the strength of their local incumbency. The Lib Dem leadership is trying to strike a balance between a stronger economy and a fairer society. In 2015, the ambition of the Lib Dem leadership is to be once again the kingmaker in another Hung Parliament.

UKIP over the last two years has taken advantage of angry protest voters who are dissatisfied with the mainstream parties. This has led to a considerable rise in UKIP’s support making them the third most popular party in most opinion polls. In May 2014, UKIP won the European Elections. UKIP benefited this year from two defections from the Conservative Party and two subsequent by-election victories. UKIP in 2015 will be focusing primarily on the issue of immigration hoping to win support from traditional Tory voters as well as some angry Labour voters. UKIP will be hoping to win several seats in parliament in 2015.

Green Party
Over the last few months, the Green Party has seen a notable rise in its support in the opinion polls. In a few opinion polls the Greens even briefly overtook the Lib Dems. Of the six parties, the Greens are the most left wing and have adopted a socialist economic platform, thus making them the most anti-austerity party of those that I have mentioned. Despite their rise in support, the Greens are unlikely to win more than two or three seats in 2015 due to the electoral system. However 2015 might act as preparation for a true electoral breakthrough for the Greens in 2020.

Scottish National Party
The SNP are undoubtedly the party of 2014. The political year was dominated by the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum and its aftermath. Despite the Unionist parties being victorious; the SNP has seen an astonishing rise in its political support in the aftermath of the referendum. The Scottish National Party is now the third largest party in Britain after its membership more than trebled after the referendum. In the opinion polls the SNP vote has soared in Scotland. The rise of the SNP has placed Scottish Labour in deep peril. Nicola Sturgeon will be aiming for the SNP to become the largest party in Scotland at the general election. Some opinion polls have shown the Scottish National Party winning over 40 seats in Scotland.

Another Hung Parliament?

As we go into 2015 and it looks very unlikely that any political party will be able to win an overall majority. Another Hung Parliament is probably the most likely outcome of the next general election. 2015 will likely test the first past the post voting system like never before. When six political parties are getting a considerable share of the vote, a voting system that only benefits two parties will see not only outdated but undemocratic. The implications on the British constitution of another Hung Parliament are profound and are unprecedented.  

Who will be the next Deputy Prime Minister?

General elections are dominated by speculation of who could be the next Prime Minister; however in 2015 as much speculation might be paid to who could be the next Deputy Prime Minister.

Nick Clegg will be hopeful of winning a second term as Deputy Prime Minister. The Liberal Democrats could potentially go into coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour. However, will the party have much appetite for another coalition with the Conservatives, especially from the perspective of the social liberals within the party? Furthermore, will the Orange Bookers have much enthusiasm for a coalition with Labour after opposing them for five years?

If UKIP’s support surge is realised in 2015 it is not entirely impossible that Nigel Farage could hold the balance of power. It is likely that UKIP could form a right wing coalition with the Conservatives, however Farage hasn't ruled out doing a deal with the Labour Party. Farage will no doubt call for strict limits on immigration as well as an immediate referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

Alex Salmond (if he is returned as an MP) could hold the balance of power in a Hung Parliament in 2015 especially if the SNP become the largest party in Scotland. The SNP won't work with the Conservatives however Salmond could strike a deal with Labour which more than likely will include devolving considerably more powers to the Scottish Parliament.

Two General Elections in 2015?

At the beginning of this article I compared the 2015 general election to 1974. In 1974, there were two general elections in one year. Could the same happen again in 2015? If there is an indecisive result will either Labour or the Conservatives take the opportunity of having a second general election at the end of 2015? This is exactly what Harold Wilson did in 1974. Labour was the biggest party in a Hung Parliament after the February election, however the Liberal Party didn't have enough seats to form a coalition with either party. A few months later, Wilson called another election in October 1974. Could either Cameron or Miliband in 2015 follow Wilson's example and call a second election, if no viable government or coalition can be formed after the first election?

Austerity Forever in 2015?

Britain has been experiencing austerity since 2008. In Britain, the Conservatives are talking about continuing austerity until 2020. Tory austerity will negatively impact upon already squeezed local government budgets and will lead to additional cuts in public services and the welfare state. Labour and the Liberal Democrats will cut less than the Conservatives and increase taxes on the wealthy in order to reduce the deficit.

There are small cracks emerging in the austerity consensus. The SNP and the Greens have been running increasingly on an anti-austerity platform. Even within the political mainstream; social democrats in the Labour Party and social liberals in the Liberal Democrats are tiring of austerity and are contemplating a Keynesian alternative. Added to this, the austerity policies of the Eurozone might change if left wing governments get elected in Greece and Spain. Could 2015 be the last austerity election?

The Future of British Politics

The general election in 2015 could be a landmark election. It will certainly be very exciting and might be the defining election of a generation. It may even have the potential to usher in a new era in British politics similar to the elections in 1906, 1918, 1945, and 1979. What is beyond question is that British politics has never been more interesting and British democracy never more exciting.