Watching the Andrew Marr Show this morning was like having a lesson in spin, and false answers.
Ed Balls acted like he was tip-toeing tentatively through a minefield of possible answers – all of which would just blow up in his face. Particularly that of whether the Labour Party would go into coalition with the SNP.
“Ed Miliband has said it is nonsense”, he kept reminding us. “Big parties, at this stage, are fighting for a majority”. And so on, and so on.
I do not believe the SNP and Labour will be in cahoots post-General Election, and I agree with Iain Macwhirter that Ed Miliband will rule it out in the next few weeks – formally.
Nevertheless, the mantra with which the two main parties are approaching this election is archaic, and for that reason is alienating a far more educated electorate than the one that existed five years ago.
People have taken notice of politics again, for the first time in years, and any idea that voters can be duped into voting one way or another is an idea of an age gone by. Fighting elections like they are back in the 1950s, saying only Ed Miliband or David Cameron will be Prime Minister (which they are, but their parties may not be the majority) is a dated message.
The time of two-party politics, and First Past the Post voting is over. The solution is a German-style mindset, and a more proportional distribution of seats.
In Germany, there currently exists a grand coalition between the CDP/CSP and the SDP, the two largest parties in the country (the CDP/CSP having been combined for many years already).
The expectation there is that there is no chance of a majority government, as they use the same system as Scotland (or Scotland use the same system as Germany): a combination of First Past the Post and Proportional Representation, called Additional Members System (AMS).
Parties open up a dialogue between each other before the election is even held, so that voters have an idea of which party they will get when they vote.
I do not think that the parties here in the UK should start doing this, but playing sheer ignorance is also not an option. The same was seen in Scotland during the referendum; the UK Government and Better Together refusing to contemplate the idea of a Yes victory (however, since then it has been found that some meetings were held in secret).
In their manifestos, the parties should set out negotiable, and non-negotiable policies, and drop this archaic idea that we still live in a Tory versus Labour age. It will simply put voters, and especially young people, off.
Oddly, Ukip has actually set out an offer to the Conservatives, along with the Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which would be struck on an issue-by-issue basis after the election. This is a surprising move, but one I would bet Cameron will beat back.
Farage, has his head screwed on right, as do the SNP, and the Liberal Democrats – all of whom know that they have no chance of entering government alone, so may as well make offers to the two main parties. What would be interesting is if these like-minded parties combined, making a “rainbow coalition”.
However, the idea of the SNP joining with Ukip is not one that will come to fruition, I believe.
Everyone will be a loser in this election. Indeed, it is unlikely that we will have a government come two or three weeks after the 7th May. The two main parties – if we can still call them that – need to act like they are in a once-in-a-generation era of politics. Nothing like this has been seen before.
It is time to drop the 1950s attitude, and accept that nobody is going to win this election.