An election with many candidates and possible outcomes

Morning View
Morning View

We are now almost a week into the formal campaign for the general election.

It is often said of a Westminster election that it is special for some reason or other.

But this really is a poll with few precedents. There has not been a general election since the universal adult franchise in which so many parties were expected to get large numbers of seats.

It is possible that the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP will all emerge with dozens of seats (hundreds in the case of the first two) and that Ukip will get a dozen or more, and that parties such as the Greens will win a handful, with multiple other groups represented too.

Such an outcome would be the antithesis of the 1950s elections, when the big two, Tories and Labour, won almost all the seats in the House of Commons.

Consider the 1951 election, for example, when the Conservatives won 321 seats, Labour 295, and the Liberals six. There were only three other MPs in the entire House.

The United Kingdom faces considerable uncertainty, which is all the more significant given that the result could lead to the ultimate break-up of the UK or its exit from the EU (or both).

A common criticism of elections is that there is no one to vote for. It is hard to see justification for this stance in Northern Ireland, except in those seats where there will be a small number of unionist v nationalist candidates.

But even in East Belfast, where unionists have formed a pact and there will be two nationalist candidates, voters will have the choice of Alliance, Tory and Green, and maybe others.

In most constituencies in the Province, there will be candidates who prioritise their Euroscepticism (Ukip), candidates on the economic right, two or three unionists, Alliance, environmentalists, and others too. Left-wing candidates who reject nationalism are, however, likely to be under-represented.

If you use your vote, it might just elect someone who has a crucial swing vote at Westminster.