With national papers reporting there are still 10 million undecided voters with under a week to go until polling day, everything is still to play for in the 2015 General Election. Labour and the Conservatives are still neck and neck in the polls with neither party seeming able to make the decisive break through with voters. In this context, what factors should we be looking out for on election night that might have a significant impact on the outcome?
Firstly, how will the SNP perform in Scotland? With some polls predicting a clean sweep of seats for the SNP this looks like being the story of Election night.
Secondly, can the Liberal Democrats rely on the incumbency effect to hold onto more of the 57 seats that they won in 2010 then currently predicted?
Finally, will UKIP maintain their 12-13% of the national vote they have polled throughout the election campaign? If the UKIP vote holds it will have an unpredictable effect on the outcome of tight Labour versus Conservative constituency races.
Post Election Political Environment
Without a decisive shift in voting intentions between now and Election Day, we should expect an uncertain political environment.
We could see the formation of a Coalition Government between two political parties as in 2010. What is more likely – given the electoral maths in this election – is the formation of a minority Government between multiple parties.
In either scenario we expect to see a weaker form of Government in place, resulting in a less predictable legislative environment for business, as the power of Parliament and in particular backbench MPs increases.
Early Legislative Hurdles
There will be three key legislative hurdles for any new Government to navigate in the first few months of the next Parliament.
Firstly, the Government will need to secure support for its legislative agenda set out in the Queen’s Speech. This is currently scheduled to take place on 27th May.
Secondly, the Government will need to pass its Budget. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have committed to holding an ‘emergency’ Budget within the first 50 days, if they are In Government.
Thirdly, Treasury Minsters will need to present and pass a Spending Review in the House of Commons in the autumn.
If the Government fails to secure the backing of the Commons for any of these three measures then they will face a vote of no confidence, and a second election may be voted on.
A Sizeable and Influential New Intake
This election will bring another significant turnover of new MPs into the House of Commons. With 87 MPs retiring and estimates suggesting that between 100 and 145 MPs could lose their seats we are expecting a similar turnover to 2010 when 35% of the Commons consisted of newly-elected MPs.
As a result, it will be important to look out for new high-flyers who could be on Government and Opposition frontbenches within a couple of years.
Though the critical question is how independently minded will this new intake of MPs choose to be? Given that many of them will come into Parliament having won tight constituency races, they are likely to be far more concerned with the priorities of their constituents then maintaining party discipline. Any serial rebels in the 2015 intake could pose a major problem for any minority Government’s legislative agenda.
Finally, an interesting feature of the previous Parliament has been the greater influence enjoyed by Parliamentary groups and Select Committees to scrutinise Government policy. These platforms will offer new ambitious MPs the platforms to make their mark.
With such an uncertain outlook for the next Parliament one of the main questions we hear is how long will it actually last?
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act this should take place in 2020, but the Act does provide mechanisms to call an election before then. Either through a two-thirds vote in the Commons or by a Government losing a no confidence vote and no other party being able to secure a majority within a 14 day period.
There is also the option for the next Government to repeal or amend the Act if they can secure a majority of support in the Commons.
If the result of May 7th means that no single party is able to govern effectively then we may well see a second election looming on the horizon soon.