Will we have a government by this time next week? Probably not. Save some electoral energy for a 1974-style rerun, says Stephen Hill
In under a week's time the nation will decide on its next government, except it probably won't, and this General Confusion will continue with an alliance of some sort or other. It is possible that this year will see another General Confusion in the autumn.
The result is likely to show the electorate does not trust the current generation of politicians, who did nothing to prove their credentials before they came into Parliament and chose to start yapping at each other instead for a living while they sit cocooned in their Westminster bubble and give the collective impression of ignoring the rest of the country. No wonder the Celtic fringe – the SNP and Plaid Cymru and the DUP – have risen up to make their voices heard.
It's been a painful debate – false exchange might be a better word – as the Conservatives, stuck halfway like Lady Macbeth, ask the electorate to back them to cross o'er to the other side of financial rectitude, while they have let the national debt double to ’1.5 trillion. Their trouble is they did not spill enough red ink on Day One last time, and are now disingenuous as to where the necessary ’12 billion expense cuts lie to begin to balance the books.
I am still at a loss as to how ’12 billion cuts, plus ’18 billion 'efficiencies', whatever they are, can balance an annual deficit of ’90 billion: if these efficiencies mean that government has been inefficient, I can believe it, but it begs the question why not save far more, have a lot less 'government' and begin repaying our national debt mountain quicker instead of employing flunkies to do nothing useful.
The Tories should have been tougher from the start, but they claim the Lib Dem coalition wets held them back… and (improbably) that they themselves helped restore the country's finances, in the dubious name of 'fairness', whatever that isn't.
If the Tories have been somewhat disingenuous, Labour has been outright mendacious, about the supposed threats from the Tories – jumping this week on the Lib Dem leak over alleged cutting child benefits, for example – and about their own record about leaving the national finances, and banking system, completely bust in 2010.
Miliband has conducted a presidential campaign, with his would-be chancellor locked up somewhere in a socialist safe house for the duration, while he asks for the keys back after their last car crash. Who is voting for them you might well ask, but the polls put them equal first in the race?
Meanwhile, Cameron says he will create 2 million new jobs, while he can do little to stop 3 million new immigrants coming in to take them. (Yes, that net immigration figure of 298,000 for last year comprised 650,000 immigrants and 352,000 emigrants). Up jumps UKIP to complain, but nobody knows how they will do in a general election, apart from taking protest votes from the three main parties; they are the dark horse in this race, coming up on the rails, in England at any rate.
The clearest result, however, will be in Scotland. The Conservatives were kicked out after Thatcher tried out her death-defying poll tax on them back in 1990, and Labour took over instead. Now the SNP is set to kick them out in a clean sweep and become a major voice at Westminster, which is surprising following their recent failure in their Independence referendum: all they want to do, as good socialists, is increase the national debt by another ’180 billion to banish austerity.
The Conservatives panic, as a Labour-SNP coalition could bring an end to the UK by busting it for good and breaking it up: the smell of stinking Sturgeon and Salmon could well empty the Palace of Westminster. Then at least Scotland could go bust on its own as well. That's what a clear result could do in this election.
So the election boils down to this: do you want Cameron or Miliband in Number 10? Or more importantly, Osborne or Balls in Number 11? Or the Lib Dems, UKIP, the SNP, Plaid Cymru or the DUP as their partners?
The trouble there are no certain winners until after the last vote is counted, so ambiguous is this contest. Maybe this shows the strength of British democracy, or the failure of the current practitioners, or both, or vice versa – I can no longer tell.
It looks like the old Grand National to me, after Beechers the second time round, as I have my doubts whether this Parliament will see the year out… and I expect a re-run in the autumn. Check out the odds at William Hill: I did, and caused a panic phone call to head office to get the odds as I tried to put a bet on Boris as PM before the year is out. That one could wipe the smile off the bookies' faces and put one on ours.
Now look forward to the weighing room antics beginning early on 8 May, while the runners and riders jostle for position for the next race. O democracy, isn't it just wonderful?