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2½ weeks is a long time in an election – anything could happen

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2½ weeks is a long time in an election campaign. Either the Conservatives or Labour could yet win an overall majority. Or, a little more likely, one of them could make a big error and lose.

That  has to be the basis on which the strategists are fighting the campaign. And that is what is behind all the posturing about danger of dysfunctional coalitions.

Ed Miliband simply can’t say he would do business with Nicola Sturgeon. If he said he was prepared to form a Government with Scottish Nationalist support he would also be telling his own party members in Scotland that there was no point in voting Labour.

And that is just the message Sturgeon wants to get across.

In much the same way David Cameron cannot say he would rule with the support of UKIP. The Lib Dems say they would not support Conservative welfare cuts, but their credibility is shot by their record on student fees.

No party is in a position to say what it would do in the event of it not having an overall majority and having to seek a coalition or some looser form of support. It would be electoral suicide.

That is why they try to get the other side to say what they would do and so make one of the mistakes that lose elections. We have reached the situation where no party’s policies look like winning the election. But it would still be easy to lose the election

It is only in the early hours of May 8 that we will start to see if there is a need for the wolf to dwell with the lamb and the leopard to lie down with the kid.

Then the realistic bargaining can begin and it could result in some strange bedfellows and take a long time. But not as long as the 16 months taken by the Belgians in 2010-11.

The Young Fabians say in a thoughtful blog post the foundations are already being laid:

In the new era of multi-party politics the manifestos produced by all the parties take on a fresh significance as coded love letters to would-be partners in government.

And after a bit of decoding it concludes:

The seedy game of footsie between the progressive parties will continue right up to, and beyond, May 7th. Yet Labour has been more forward towards its potential partners than many realise. A subtle, but aggressive, pitch to plurality could be all the difference when the votes are in.

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