One of the common themes in recent coverage of Britain’s general election is that it is a highly “unpredictable” election, but this is somewhat misleading. It’s true that the exact composition of the next government remains unknown and may remain so for some time, but the polls have been consistently showing for months that the two leading parties are virtually tied, the Liberal Democrats are collapsing, and the SNP is on course to win all or almost all Scottish seats. That has been true in one survey after another for the last several months. Despite the fact that many more voters will support parties opposed to them, the Conservatives are on track to hang on to control by winning the most seats and having the first chance to form a government. It’s possible that they won’t be able to form a government that can survive for very long, but that is a different matter. The two parties that took power in 2010 will most likely be in a position to form the next government, albeit with fewer seats. That result may not be decisive, but it is hardly unpredictable. What is truly unpredictable is what comes after that.
Unless the polling has been very wrong, the election will produce results that have been more or less expected for many months. I was commenting on the implosion of the Labour Party in Scotland more than six months ago, which many observers noted and which was there for everyone to see. Collapsing support for Labour there may not have sealed the party’s fate by itself, but it did most of the damage. It has helped that Miliband has ruled out making any deals with the SNP, which means that the impending repudiation of Labour in Scotland all but guarantees that there will be no Labour government in Westminster. That is what the Conservatives’ campaign has been banking on, and it seems to have worked out for them. It is curious that a Tory-led government is poised to hang on to power thanks to the surge in support for Scottish nationalists in the last six months, but that seems to be what is about to happen.