I take a look at five of the most influential leaders in the upcoming election and their strategies for success on May 7th.
DAVID CAMERON – THE INCUMBENT
As the current Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, the first thing on David Cameron’s mind will be to try and secure a clear mandate for his parties policies by getting a majority in Parliament. However, seeing as this more or less an impossibility, Cameron’s back-up plan could be either to form another coalition with the Liberal Democrats, or to form a minority government with support from the DUP, UUP and possibly UKIP. Cameron’s biggest concern with less than two weeks to go will be ensuring that his party can remain the largest party in Westminster and win enough seats to fight off a potential anti-Tory alliance of Labour, the nationalist parties, and others.
ED MILIBAND – THE CHALLENGER
After facing years of humiliation in the press and comments that ‘the wrong brother won’, Miliband will be fighting not only to defend his party’s record on the economy and his ability to govern, but also to tarnish Cameron’s approach to welfare and the NHS. For Miliband, nothing (including foreign policy) can be off limits; the more he can show Cameron’s failings, the greater chance of a swing to Labour. Seeing as a Labour majority is small in probability, Miliband probably realises that the SNP holds the keys to Downing Street, in the form of a minority government. However, he will be keen to distance himself from the SNP in the run-up to the election, for fear of the Tories taking advantage of this to claim that he is in Nicola Sturgeon’s pocket.
NICK CLEGG – THE DEFENDER
As leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg continues to face a hard time from voters across the country, disappointed and angry at the broken promises made by the party prior to the 2010 election. Clegg will be on the defensive as he tries to protect his party’s record in coalition, but faces the prospect of having this fall on deaf ears. For him and his party, the main aim will be to hold as many seats as possible and protect against the backlash that the Liberal Democrats at the polls. If the numbers are in his favour, he could play the role of kingmaker once again. If not, he could end up without a seat in Parliament altogether.
NICOLA STURGEON – THE NEWCOMER
Sturgeon comes into the election as a relatively new leader, having been in the role as SNP leader for only seven months. However, Sturegon is ready to take on the boys at Westminster, and her performances in the leaders’ debates will no doubt swing some voters who had been put off by Alex Salmond. Having already committed to kicking the Tories out of government and knowing that she could hold the balance of power at Westminster, her aim will be to convince Scotland that they can actually influence things in Westminter, and convince the country that she doesn’t pose the threat that Cameron and the Conservatives have portrayed her as. Her attempts to form an agreement with Ed Miliband and Labour will have more success after the polls close, alhtough she must be aware that not all of her red lines will be accepted.
NIGEL FARAGE – THE JOKER
The leader of UKIP is not afraid to speak his mind, and the leaders’ debates are a testament of that. Unlike the other leaders, he will be encouraging his base to ensure they vote UKIP at the election, instead of tactically voting for the Tories instead. Farage knows that UKIP will act as a wildcard in the election, making seats much harder to predict, and his aim to win some 30 seats could make the party a key player in any deal after the election. However, polling suggests that three or four seats is a more likely number, which will carry much power. For Farage, a victory for the party could be a seat in Parliament with a Labour minority government to rattle a saver against. However, he will be acutely aware that achieving a seat in South Thanet is not guaranteed; his position as party leader hinges on this constituency.
More election news and opinion to come soon!