The prospect of coalitions is fast becoming an increasingly pertinent part of the United Kingdom’s general election campaign. Labour party leader Ed Miliband ruled out a Labour-SNP coalition (in the event of a hung parliament in the May general election) although a looser relationship between the two parties might still be feasible. This comes after the UKIP party leader Nigel Farage may agree to a theoretical deal to “prop up” the Conservative party in return for a referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union before Christmas.
The potential for a Labour-SNP coalition is seen as viable due to both parties belonging to the left of the political spectrum. Equally, the SNP is expected to win a lot of Scotland’s parliamentary seats that have historically gone to Labour. This means that in the result of a hung parliament Labour might have looked towards the SNP, Liberal Democrats or the Green party to attempt to form a government. Mr Miliband’s recent announcement mainly covers the prospect of SNP ministers being in the government (which has been ruled out) although an informal agreement in which the SNP support the Labour party for some concessions is still possible. Labour may also be keen to distance itself from an SNP coalition due to their aim to convey that they believe a majority is still achievable. The SNP also appears to be on a mission to reassure English voters as its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, stated that the party had a “moderate approach to deficit reduction.”
UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s talk of potentially offering support to the Conservatives is similar to the circumstances of a Labour-SNP coalition. The Conservatives have been attempting to distance themselves from UKIP, whilst also attempting to appeal to UKIPs support. The possibility of an informal coalition between the Conservative party, UKIP and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party (DUP) might be seen to raise questions about the UK’s EU membership. Again, similar to Labour, the Conservatives are aiming to project that a majority is still a possibility.
The growing role of smaller parties in politics within the UK is becoming more evident within this campaign. The traditional parties are increasingly becoming challenged as the support of parties such as the Greens, UKIP and SNP continues to grow. Public opinion of the two predominant parties is close, with the Conservatives being just 1% ahead of the Labour party (according to a YouGov poll) even though Ed Miliband has received a challenging reception from the electorate to the thought of him as Prime Minister. Equally, due to the UK’s electoral system, it may see a difference between the total percentage of the vote and the amount of MPs a party gets. For example, 14.5% of the UK-wide vote may lead to a modest 3 parliamentary seats due to parties being represented by the amount of seats they win rather than the percentage of the whole vote.
Parties such as the SNP and UKIP may gain favour with traditional voters of Conservatives and Labour due to their ability to campaign on niche topics such as immigration and devolution. The emergence of these smaller parties highlights the increasing diversity of politics within the UK where demographic groups may have multiple parties relying on their support. The potential of a coalition is influencing the campaign, as Labour and Conservative both may be planning for a coalition although are maintaining that a majority is still feasible for both of their parties. The impact of potential coalitions is yet to be seen although the eventuality of parties such as UKIP, SNP, Greens, Liberal Democrats and the DUP playing an important role in the next government is a realistic end result.
How might the possibility of a coalition effect the General Election?