Coalition cocktails: Preparing for the morning after the night before

With the polls still showing no overall winners, what coalitions might be a possibility after #GE2015?

For months, the polls and the bookies have told us that it is just too close to call and this morning Weber Shandwick hosted a breakfast event looking specifically at what will happen post #GE2015 and what policies will be key in building (and breaking) coalitions.

Unsurprisingly Europe was a policy area up for debate and was declared a red line by both Steven Stanbury, Party Director of UKIP and Jennifer Dempsie, former SpAd to Alex Salmond: UKIP will not budge on the referendum and the SNP will go nowhere near one.  Professor Stephen Lee from CentreForum argued that although divisive to some coalition mixes, there is room for the Lib Dems to get behind a (Tory) referendum if they want to continue the status quo.

Phillip Blond from Respublica argued that in reality there were few red lines, with nuclear being one of the exceptions.  Like many of the other panellists, he pointed out that electoral reform may be a good policy to negotiate on and that the ‘failed’ AV referendum does not mean that it is a done issue for the Lib Dems.  The SNP have also publically discussed their desire for political reform and the panellists agree that this has the scope to be one of the key chess pieces come 8 May.

Although there was some debate about the feasibility of different coalition mixes, Paul Hackett from The Smith Institute was clear in his view that there wouldn’t be a riot following the election, but rather coalitions could be built on a deal by deal basis.  In addition to Europe and political reform, other key areas to negotiate on include welfare reforms, NHS spending, wealth taxes (such as the mansion tax) and devolution (including DevoManc), although Jennifer Dempsie reiterated that a further referendum is not in the SNP’s manifesto for this election.

Amber de Botton from Sky News stressed the importance of roles in a new government as being another fundamental thread of coalition negotiations, pointing out that the Lib Dems would be pushing for more ‘social’ portfolios such as health and education, whilst UKIP would want roles in the Foreign Office if they were able to play kingmaker.  Personality was also a key part of the formation of coalitions, with Stephen Lee stressing that a Lib/Lab coalition just wouldn’t be an option if Clegg stays at the helm.

And predictions?  The general consensus was that Miliband would squeak it but would need, and is likely to get, support from the Lib Dems or SNP or some combination.  Stephen Lee was the only panellist to predict a Tory minority government, propped up by the Lib Dems.  So with 42 days to go, it seems there is a lot to play for.

Follow the debate here: #wscocktails

For more on the likely outcomes of the General Election, read our article Too Close to Call?

Read what the different political parties have been saying about forming coalitions in Party lines on coalition posturing.