With one month to go until Britain’s general election, experts are poring over opinion polls for clues about what will happen in the closest race in decades.
Though the ultimate outcome remains unknown, surveys do offer some idea on whether David Cameron may remain prime minister after May 7 voting.
The Conservatives, currently senior partners in a coalition government, and Ed Miliband’s Labour party are neck-and-neck. The BBC’s opinion poll tracker currently puts the Conservatives at 34 percent and Labour at 33 percent. This suggests neither party will be able to form a government alone.
The two main parties have dominated British politics since the 1920s. But now the two-party system is fragmenting, which could mean the Conservatives or Labour may have to team up with a smaller party or parties to govern.
Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP), which wants Britain to leave Europe, is polling at 15 percent while the Greens are on five percent. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP), which wants independence from Britain, looks set to replace Labour as the biggest party.
While these figures offer a guideline of how each party is doing, the next government will be decided by how many seats in the House of Commons each party wins. For election purposes, Britain is broken down into 650 local constituencies. To form a government, a party needs to win over half of these - at least 326.
The Guardian newspaper’s projection currently suggests that the Conservatives will win 276 seats and Labour 270. It gives the SNP 50, junior coalition partners the Liberal Democrats 28 -half their current figure—and UKIP four.
Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, and deputy prime minister could be among those to lose his seat and his career, according to polling commissioned in his constituency by Michael Ashcroft, a wealthy former Conservative peer.
Most polls indicate that either the Conservatives or Labour will have to team up with one or more of the smaller parties to get enough seats to govern.
“One way of summing it up is that it has been a war of the weak,” said Gideon Skinner of pollsters Ipsos MORI. “It certainly points to a tight race with an uncertain outcome.”