Who’s working with whom in Westminster after May?

Image credit: cliparts.co
Image credit: cliparts.co

It goes without saying that disagreement and contradiction are fundamental aspects of politics, both of which make it healthy and sometimes enjoyable; but in two areas concerning the forthcoming election, the amount of contradictory statements and confusing stories is leaving me nonplussed.

Many people have voiced their frustration over the unnecessary fuss that has come about through the televisied ‘leaders’ debates’. What started as an accusation of the Prime Minister’s cowardice has become a major muddle involving the leaders of the seven biggest parties. The point of contention still hasn’t been resolved – the Prime Minister is still refusing to take to the podium, and the broadcasters (as well as the other party leaders) are happy to call his bluff and go on without him.

The amount of offers, rejections and promises for one party not to work with another has reduced Westminster to a marketplace, and commentators from both outside and inside the political parties are struggling to keep up. The Conservatives will work with X but not with Y, the Labour Party will form a coalition with X and Y but not Z, UKIP refuses to work with the Conservatives, the Scottish National Party will do its best to block every single thing that the Conservatives might propose… the list goes on. If all the party leaders were to stand and were asked to shake hands with the leaders with whose parties they were prepared to work, we would see a very entertaining, tangled demonstration of Twister. The amount of journalists who are keeping up with all the deals that are being proposed, or the partnerships that are being rejected, is slimming as we get closer to the election.

Even if all of those deals and promises were guaranteed to be true, we’re also told by our politicians that making protest votes or voting tactically will cause more problems. “A vote for this party will get you that party in Downing Street,” we hear. In short, when there are two large parties and a smaller third party, voting for the third will chip away at the support of one of the two bigger ones. A year or so ago, a vote for UKIP would mean a vote for the Labour Party. But now, a vote for just about anyone means a vote for someone else! The Conservatives have been hammering on about how only a Conservative majority in the next government will guarantee the continuation of the economic recovery, but it’s unlikely that anyone will get a majority in May. Because of this, all those “I’ll work with him but not her” promises are thrown up in the air.

All this chaos has come about because we face an election like no other. The Labour Party and the Conservative Party may still be the two biggest contenders, as they have been for the last hundred years, but this time the amount and strength of minority parties (UKIP, the Greens, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats and so on) will tip the balance extraordinarily. With both of the main two parties aware that neither is going to make a comfortable win at the election, intense bargaining seems to be in order, as it happened five years ago when the Liberal Democrats appeared to be a strong force. But now that we have so many powerful factors of influence, the amount of dodgy deals has vastly increased. The Telegraph reports that the Prime Minister is already having private talks about creating another coalition government.

All in all, what is the best advice for voters, particularly our university’s students who are going to be making their first votes? Several commentators have advised us to concentrate on our local area, the candidates and their ideas for the area, and avoid the chaotic national level. Let’s hope that your local candidates are strong!

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Jack Harvey

Alumni & Public Relations Officer at The Yorker
Comment and Politics Editor 2015/2016, Editor 2016/2017, Alumni & Public Relations Officer 2017/2018 and acting, 2018/2019. Waiting to graduate with MA in Philosophy at University of York in 2019.