Coalition-spotting has, for the political chattering classes, become a temporary national sport. Everyone thinks they know the magic numbers for the Conservatives and Labour; can guess the scale of the Scottish wipeout (or landslide); smirk at the increasing irrelevance of Nigel Farage and Ukip; and puzzle why the Greens and the Liberal Democrats may both end up with 8% of the national vote yet the former will have one seat and the latter 25 or more.
The delicious irony of a pro-proportional representation party benefiting from first-past-the-post mathematics is not lost.
A Populus/Hanover survey, quoted in the Financial Times at the end of April, reckoned the Tories have less than an 18% chance of eventual government, such is the party’s limited options and few friends beyond the Lib Dems and the Democratic Unionist Party.
The percentage could fall lower still should Nick Clegg lose Sheffield Hallam, leaving the current prime minister with the unwelcome prospect of dealing with a combination of Vince Cable, Simon Hughes and Tim Farron.
Amid this ongoing saga, two questions need to be asked. First, what legitimacy does a cobbled-together coalition really have, given a third of the electorate will have shunned the voting booths anyway?
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