Will a General Election make any real difference?

The heavens passed their verdict on this sorry government yesterday, as a waterlogged PM announced a July General Election. Many were surprised that he jumped before he was pushed. Cynics might say that, clutching at straws, he was perhaps hoping for a good run for the England team in next month’s Euros to brighten the gloom and to improve his chances. However he should remember what happened to a previous much fancied England team, whose exit from the World Cup contributed, some argued, to the Labour government’s surprise defeat back in 1970.

To be honest, after 14 years of basically Tory rule, according to the opinion polls this latest iteration has run its course and needs to go. The result on 4 July could however be closer than many pundits think. Ironically, First Past The Post could throw up some surprises, particularly for the Lib Dems, despite national polling figures of around 12%, who will be furiously targeting mainly Tory held seats. Don’t rule out a surprise or two from the Green Party either. If the Reform Party does field candidates everywhere and take votes off the Tories the SNP vote collapses in Scotland in favour of Labour, we could see a result similar to 1997.

I get the feeling that apathy might win and that the turnout generally might be low. People are generally fed up; but many still are not convinced that the Labour Party has all the answers, hence Sir Keir Starmer and Co’s cautious ‘torylite’ approach.

We could end up with a situation similar to 2010, with Labour the largest party this time and the Lib Dems in the rôle of king makers. If so, the most Ed Davey should offer if he gets that phone call from Sir Keir Starmer, is ‘confidence and supply’. Coalition governments are something that many our electorate still find hard to handle. Clearly mistakes were made, although, in fairness, if I had to live through any period of the previous decade again, I know which half I would choose.

As for poor old Rishi Sunak, if all else fails at least he’s got that precious Green Card and the chance to make loads more money over the pond. After all, David Cameron didn’t stay long in the House of Commons after his defeat

All things are happening in a world gone mad. With the prospect of a trade war with China, whoever gets the keys to the White House in the Autumn, right wing victories in the upcoming EU elections possibly driving a coach and horses through solidarity with Ukraine, whatever happens on these islands just makes you realise how insignificant we really are. Then there’s climate change.

I’m eighty now and I don’t envy the task ahead for my children and grandchildren to try to sort out this mess. In some ways, life was better during the Cold War. At least we knew who the enemy was, or at least we thought we did!

* John Marriott is a former Liberal Democrat councillor from Lincolnshire.

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9 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 23rd May '24 - 3:55pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful piece.

    Attached are some questions Mr. Davey might help our society by asking Mr. Starmer before coming to a possible coalition decision!

    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2024/05/23/questions-to-ask-politcians-in-this-election/

  • Charles A Pragnell 23rd May '24 - 9:01pm

    Interesting article , but I don’t see a hung parliament this time. A Labour majority government! However I do believe the Lib Dems will be back as the third party. The SNP are in trouble in Scotland, and the polls suggest Labour could well be the largest party in Scotland . I think the polls will change by election day, and like 1997 the Lib Dems performed much better . They started on 10% and ended up at 16.5%. The Lib Dems will be OK , as long as Ed does not come out with the language of Swinson . I think folk might be presently surprised on Election night.

  • It would be interesting if the LDs were kingmakers this time.

    Its often said they were in 2010, and it’s wrong – with the maths and the attitudes in the parties there was no workable government not involving the Tories. Thus Cameron was kingmaker, making his choice between some arrangement with the LD or the DUP, having a minority government leading to a snap election when the polling felt good, or a balanced coalition with Labour.

    We have since seen three of those options in action and by god the other two were a lot worse for everyone!

  • Oliver James Leonard 24th May '24 - 2:40pm

    I personally believe the Liberal Democrats should be aiming to be the official opposition, goodness knows who the next Conservative leader will be, it could well end being Suella Braverman and she would be simply be awful as opposition leader, Labour would just be able to get away with pretty much anything, I bit like when Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the Labour Party, no creditable opposition existed so the extreme wing of the Conservatives was able to just get away with whatever they wanted, so it isn’t just about removing the Conservatives from government it’s about reducing them to being the 3rd party. Then there is actually a creditable opposition party that could take over from Labour should they screw it up.

  • John Marriott 24th May '24 - 5:53pm

    Thanks, Steve, for your kind words. I’ve checked the website you recommend and what it says makes sense.
    Sorry, Martin, if you find my article ‘unhelpful’. It wasn’t intended to help anyone. It was merely MY observation. I would agree with your final sentence, although, in terms of parties that campaign in at least three out of the four ‘nations’ of the U.K., I tend to agree with Charles that the Lib Dems could make it to third place. I also agree with him that, for both Labour and the Lib Dems, the 2019 campaign was a disaster.

    Finally, the events of 2010 figure prominently in Jen’s critique. From my recollection the Labour Party back then had just run out of steam and showed no interest in doing a deal with anyone. Clegg and his team entered into negotiations ( too brief in my opinion to cover adequately all bases), hopefully out of a desire to do good for the country, although cynics might argue that the lure of a possible ministerial limo may have also played a part. Yes, it didn’t work out well in the end; but, if you STILL want to see PR for General Elections you have to accept the fact that it may produce perpetual coalition government.

    When I was a regular contributor to Lib Dem Voice, compromise was my mantra. To borrow those lines from Mick Jagger, which Trump highjacked some years ago “You can’t always get what you want…….Sometimes you get what you need”. What the nation needed back in 2010 was a New Deal on the lines of FDR and not the austerity it got. That’s where the rot set in and those of us who supported compromise through cooperation have struggled ever since to justify our case.

  • David Allen 25th May '24 - 7:23pm

    There is such a thing as coalition phobia. It’s understandable – The Lib Dems made a pig’s ear of it, and rightly got punished. But if the Lib Dems can’t cure themselves of this irrational phobia, they will only suffer again.

    Labour will lose some ground during this campaign. Starmer’s excessive caution and lack of ambition will be shown up. The Lib Dems, or perhaps the Greens or the SNP, will have the opportunity to offer something more positive, start to rise in the polls, and make the news.

    The quickest way to collapse that souffle would be for Davey to say “Don’t expect us to have any influence over the next government, Labour are bound to win a massive majority, in fact it’s hardly worth bothering to vote…”

  • Well, given that the Tories have just announced they want to bring back National Service … and that’s their best plan, this is well timed!

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