eight days to go – a time of transition?

It has been a long election campaign and a curious one. So far there have been no unexpected turns of events and little excitement beyond the odd spat between Labour and the SNP. There is no evidence of any significant movement in the opinion polls: it will be a close run thing between Labour and the Conservatives, with the largest party seeking to form a Government. This could be a minority government or some sort of informal or informal agreement. If this proves correct the big stories will be written on the weekend after the election. Currently the political journalists must be desperate to find something new to say.

However it will be a shame if, in the flurry of post-election, we lose sight of what may prove to be a bigger picture. As the election has proceeded I have become increasingly convinced that we are in a period of significant political transition. The two tribes, Labour and Tory, have consolidated and there is little prospect of movement between the two. A significant number of voters are disenchanted with both enough to vote for another party and are not susceptible to the argument that their vote will be a wasted vote.

My experience over fifty years of political activity has convinced me that the electorate, in their own often tortuous way, produce the result that they want. One argument, which will be much in evidence in the post-election analysis, is that the electorate now wants coalitions and the politicians had better get used to it. Certainly that will be the LibDem line since there is no other justification for their continued existence.

I’m by no means sure that this is correct. I prefer to look to an alternative explanation. This is that the electorate is waiting for the next big idea or grand vision. They cannot be enthused by a debate on how much austerity is needed and who will deliver it most effectively. For those of us on the left the formulation and articulation of this idea is our major challenge.

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