Is David Cameron set to stay in Downing Street after May?

Ben Gummer beat Chris Mole (right) in 2010 - but can he repeat the trick in May?

Ben Gummer beat Chris Mole (right) in 2010 - but can he repeat the trick in May? - Credit: Archant

If I had a pound for everyone who told me that May’s general election is too difficult to predict, I’d be a rich man – because five months out the election result looks very much up in the air.

I’m not going to buck the trend and claim that any party will score a resounding victory in the general election.

But deep in my bones my hunch is that David Cameron will be returned to power, again possibly at the head of a coalition government.

If the opposition is to win a decisive victory in the election, they need to be substantially ahead in the polls at this stage – and even that’s no guarantee. Look at Labour in 1991/2!

When the election is called there is a natural reaction for those who have been wavering to decide that they prefer the devil they know.

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An opposition needs to be 5% ahead in the polls at the start of the campaign to be on an even footing with the government. I don’t see that happening.

And remember a significant number of those questioned by pollsters lie because they don’t want to be seen to be supporting the status quo. That’s why the Scottish referendum result wasn’t anywhere near as close as the pollsters predicted.

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Of course, there will be those who say: “This time it’s different. Look at the impact of UKIP.”

I have no doubt that UKIP will be a significant factor in the election – it will take votes from both Labour and Tory candidates in many seats.

However, I don’t think it will get enough votes in individual seats to make any impact in Westminster.

If it does win any seats, it will be Clacton where Douglas Carswell has a strong personal vote. I would not be surprised if UKIP ended up with zero seats but a 10% share of the vote across the country. That’s first past the post for you!

That is not to say that there will be no changes on the ground, in individual seats.

The Liberal Democrats will lose about half their 62 MPs as voters disenchanted with the government take it out on them.

But popular local characters – the Sir Bob Russells and the Norman Lambs of this world – will survive.

Both the Tories and Labour will benefit from this cull of the LibDems – as will the SNP north of the border.

My feeling is that we’ll be left with 30 LibDem MPs and 40 from the SNP. I suspect the result of the election will either be another Conservative/LibDem coalition, or a Labour/SNP coalition.

And here in the east? If I were a betting man I’d put my money on Labour winning back Ipswich (by hundreds rather than thousands) and Norwich South – but the Tories hanging on in Waveney, Great Yarmouth and Norwich North.

But of course five months is a long time in politics, and all the parties will be thinking that it’s all to play for – so anything can happen in the next 150 days!

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