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These Are the Coalition Governments that Could Run Britain After the Next UK Election

Here is a rundown of the possible pairings that could result after the upcoming UK general election.

by Joe Sandler Clarke
Jan 9 2015, 5:00pm

Illustration by Cei Willis

This article originally appeared on VICE UK

Voter apathy, a lack of distinguishing features between the main parties, and low turnout at elections has conspired to give Britons a situation where no party looks likely to win a clear majority in the general election this year. But of course, lack of votes doesn't lead to the absence of government, rather a coalition government that nobody voted for which make compromises that piss off their supporters, further fueling apathy in a vicious cycle.

Last week David Cameron twice refused to rule out teaming up with UKIP, while a Guardian article posited a coalition between Labor and the Conservatives as "the only way forward."

Here is a rundown of the possible pairings that could result after the general election to get everyone in the UK really excited for the next round of fudged half-measures and political infighting.

Nigel Farage. Image via Chatham House

Conservatives and UKIP

To the horror of immigrants, gay people, and foxes, the prospect of Nigel Farage sitting next to David Cameron in Parliament is not all that unlikely. Constituency level polls currently show that UKIP is likely to win five seats at the general election. More optimistic projections show the party could win as many as 30. Either way, Nigel Farage's party could well be significant player's post-2015, if the election is as tight as many predict.

A coalition with UKIP is a popular policy among grassroots Conservatives, many of whom have not jumped ship only because of UKIP's tacky color scheme. Farage has also hinted he would be open to the idea, in return for an in-out vote on Britain's place in the EU.

There is plenty of common ground to be found with right-wing Tory backbenchers and UKIP on issues like persecuting immigrants and getting out of the EU. This will be your idea of heaven if you see Brussels as the capital of all evil, governed by bureaucrats addicted to British money and making more laws specifically designed to fill the pages of the Daily Mail.

The dinosaur element of the Tory Party would be emboldened. Fewer than half of its MPs voted for gay marriage—would Cameron have been able to face down the nay-sayers if he was teamed up with Farage rather than Clegg? Probably not. This would of course loose the Conservatives the votes of socially-liberal conservatives—the kind of people who hate homophobia but also hate paying too much tax—and they are needed to beat Labor in the long run.

For UKIP, an alliance with the most establishment of all the establishment parties would spoil their outsider credentials somewhat and potentially alienate disaffected Labour voters. Lots to lose and little to gain on both sides, then. It may depend on how bad the swingometer looks for the Conservatives.

Photo by James Turner

Labor and Tory

The idea of Dennis Skinner and Michael Gove battling it out for the best spot on the same green bench at PMQs isn't as crazy as it sounds. On the one hand, opposites attract. On the other, how opposite are these parties really, when you get down to it? Most of them went to the same Oxbridge colleges anyway.

You may think that such a coalition would please nobody at all, but you'd be wrong. Among people in the City, who are already coming out in hives over the instability an election might bring—which is bad for business—there is significant support for such an arrangement. Writing in the Telegraph, Ben Wright noted that a Tory-Labor pact might just be what the business community want: a broadly pro-EU, pro-business, center-right government that wants to make massive cuts to the welfare state.

Of course it's hard to see what the voters would get from this, other than the smug satisfaction of knowing they were right in saying: "the parties are all the same anyway. What's the point?"

Labor and Lib Dem

Which riles you up more, Ed Miliband endlessly droning without actually saying anything at all, or Nick Clegg making an enormous Thing of calling random strangers on TV debates by their first name as if it was a pick-up technique from The Game? No need to choose, you can have both!

Before you get too depressed at the idea, remember that the possibility of this charisma free coalition is mercifully remote. The first reason being that Labor figures have ruled out a coalition with the Liberal Democrats after the election, and the second being that there might well be so few Lib Dem MPs left after May anyway.

Current polls suggest that Nick Clegg's party will have less than 20 seats after the election, with Clegg's own Sheffield Hallam seat one of those under threat.

The two parties would appear to have a lot in common in terms of social policy, but Labour would probably be reluctant to work with a party so tainted by five obsequious years in a Tory lead government. By the same token, everyone still hates Labour from the last time they were in power, so it would equal out. Sort of.

Labor and SNP

This coalition of left-wingers, perhaps including a handful of Greens and Plaid Cymru MPs, seems the least likely of all these unlikely arrangements, but as the upcoming election promises to be the most unpredictable in history, we might as well speculate.

Following their huge surge in support seen during the Scottish referendum, the SNP are widely predicted to wipe out Labour in their Scottish heartlands come May. One poll from October had Labour with four seats and the SNP with 54.

All this raises the prospect of the SNP propping up a minority Labour government, which the party's former leader Alex Salmond insists is a possibility. Any SNP/Labor pact would push Ed Miliband's party to the left on a range of issues, with the SNP having made a great show of their opposition to Trident and spending cuts embraced by the major parties.

But for all the SNPs left-wing policies, there's one issue they value above all else. The SNP could be tempted into backing pretty much anything a Labour government felt like doing for a few years at least, with the promise of another referendum to get the hell away from the Westminster circus forever.

Photo via the Financial Times Flickr

Conservative and Lib Dem

Like a medieval history graduate who's just left university with a third class degree, Nick Clegg is desperately lonely and willing to work with anyone. Despite that, the prospect of a second Conservative-Lib Dem coalition looks unlikely for several reasons. First, for Tory MPs angered by David Cameron's failure to win an outright majority in 2010, the prospect of a second coalition government would likely push many MPs over the edge into forcing a leadership election. Second, the policy differences that existed before 2010 between the two parties have grown even more pronounced during their five years in government.

The Conservatives are offering the chance to leave the EU, while the Liberals are massively pro-Europe. The Conservatives are committed to scrapping the human rights act, while the Liberals see it as one of the great policy achievements of the last two decades.

It sounds like a stupid arrangement, but of course it's the one we have at the moment.

Here's to the next five years!

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