Dan Swain argues we can’t let the Tories steal another 5 years
Who’s going to win the General Election? The simple answer is nobody. Under the first past the post system, to really ‘win’ a party has to secure 326 seats in Parliament, which makes it impossible for them to be outvoted even if all the other parties block together. No single party will achieve this. The Tories could not even manage this 5 years ago, supposedly riding high amidst the wreckage of the Brown regime. Any hope Labour might have had has been swept away by their astonishing post-referendum collapse in Scotland. In fact, most predictions put both Labour and Tories hovering around 270 seats, neck and neck, but miles short of outright government.
And that’s where it gets messy. Someone has to be Prime Minister and form a government, and the only two people who can do that are Ed Miliband and David Cameron. So who gets to? The obvious answer is whichever can put together a functioning coalition – i.e. who can find enough MPs from other parties to add up to 326 (or close enough), either in a formal coalition or an agreement to survive key votes. All the polls point in one, clear, direction – only Ed Miliband can do this. Even with the Lib Dems and UKIP, a Tory-led coalition would only get in the region of 300 seats. On the other hand, Labour, the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, and (possibly) George Galloway, would amount to an anti-Tory majority in Parliament.
Unsurprisingly, the Tories and their allies in the press don’t see it this way. As Adam Ramsay points out, they are beginning to spin a narrative that what really matters is who gets the most seats. So, if the Tories scrape 272 to Labour’s 270, they will be the real ‘winners’, and Ed Miliband will be a loser, propped up by the Scots: “If they can possibly get away with it, they will find any way they can to declare Cameron the winner, even if it’s going to be almost impossible for him to command a parliamentary majority. In doing so, they will seek to make it impossible for Miliband to govern.”
And they might get away with it. Parliament does not convene for 11 days after the election (something engineered by Cameron himself). That’s a long time to spin the line that Cameron is the ‘real’ winner. The UK’s lack of a constitution means who has the first go at forming a government in these circumstances is not set in stone, but in post-war elections 2 different principles have been applied – in 1974 the incumbent Prime Minister, in 2010 the party with the most seats. Either way, the establishment will try to put Cameron in the driving seat.
This cannot be allowed to happen. If the right wing press are preparing to steal an election, we need to be preparing to reclaim our democracy. If we wake up on May 8th with Cameron declared the ‘winner’, but with an anti-Tory majority, we should be taking to the streets to demand Cameron go. We hope that people will discuss this in their campaign groups and organisations. Whatever you think of Labour, we cannot let the Tories steal 5 more years.