Dr Steve McCabe, Birmingham City Business School

Are you still undecided on who to vote for at the polling station today? Perhaps Dr Steve McCabe’s observations on the political parties may help you to decide…

The Conservatives enjoy support on the basis of their perceived ability to manage the economy. However, whilst they have been able to reduce the deficit they are criticised for not having achieved the objective of eliminating it within this parliament as had been promised. Indeed many economists, myself included, believe that austerity has undermined growth. Moreover, it is asserted, the pain of austerity appears to have been borne disproportionately by the poorest members of society. The fact that the Conservative party claims it will continue with austerity makes many extremely uncomfortable; especially given their intended policy of reducing the welfare budget by 12 billion pounds. This will particularly affect those who are unemployed, sick and disabled. For such reasons, there is a divide between those who believe austerity is positive and those who believe that a more sensitive and benevolent approach is appropriate.

On the issue of reform of the National Health Service, the Conservatives are seen by many voters to lack understanding of the esteem with which this organisation is held and, even worse, lacking compassion. Additionally the Conservatives appear to believe that increased intervention by private enterprise will solve the funding problem which, because of an ageing population, is likely to increase significantly in coming years. This is an issue that undermines support for the Conservatives. Many people are also concerned that the promised referendum on continued membership of the EU will result in the UK leaving this organisation. As a number of business commentators argue, not being an integral part of what represents our biggest export market would not be in our long term interests. For this reason, those who are pro-EU and traditionally Conservative supporters may hesitate in voting for them this time.

According to our Facebook poll, 39% of students will be voting Labour at the General Election today. 29% Conservative, 20% Green Party, 7% UKIP & 5% Liberal Democrats.

As a consequence of being seen to have abandoned their manifesto promises made before the last election, the Liberal Democrats have undoubtedly lost support and will have fewer seats this time. That stated its leader Nick Clegg has done better during the campaign than expected and the view is that they may still be the ‘kingmaker’ and they may do a deal to create a coalition government. Whether voters think in the complex tactical terms that is being suggested remains to be seen. Let’s not forget that voting, certainly in the past, was a tribal activity based on tradition (and class). This time round it will probably be very different.

Ed Miliband has performed much better than those who were writing him off pretty much since his election as leader of the Labour party. Whether he becomes the next Prime Minister is a question that will only become clear in the next day or so (and maybe longer). Perhaps a more pertinent question is whether he can enter 10 Downing Street without the need to rely on the support of the SNP; something he has stated he does not intend to do.

What this election has demonstrably shown is that the days of two party politics and majority government are over; at least in the foreseeable future. Whether the smaller parties can maintain the momentum achieved in this election campaign will be proved by how people vote today and in the coming months. It’s entirely possible that if this election results in a so called ‘hung’ parliament and we have a second election within, say, six months, voters will return to their traditional patterns of support. However, given that it is believed that 40% are undecided and, worse, cannot be bothered, it may be that all of the parties – but most especially the two largest parties – need to radically reform their approach and refresh their message. One thing is for sure, we are living through interesting times!

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Dr Steve McCabe

Dr Steve McCabe

Birmingham City Business School