So it’s finally here. Tomorrow the country goes to the polls to decide the government that will lead the UK for up to five years. And frankly, the general election can’t come soon enough. By this point in the campaign, most people have already decided which box they’re going to cross and only a few last-minute fireworks – an awkward gaffe, a scandalous revelation – may cause a late swing in the polls to one side or the other.
Unfortunately, however, this entire campaign has been characterised by complete predictability. All the main parties have stuck doggedly to their party line, a line that was decided months ago: Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, has repeatedly forewarned us of impending doom in the National Health Service; prime minister David Cameron has banged on about the economy; and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats has said about a million times that he’ll bring “a heart to the Conservatives and a brain to Labour”; making his campaign look more like an audition for The Wizard of Oz.
Another miserably unsurprising aspect of this campaign has been the leaders’ reticence when it comes to discussing what they will do once the ballots have actually been counted. Both Cameron and Miliband continue to insist that they’re still battling for a majority and the polls continue to show this as a farcical pipe dream, such is the fractured and polarised state of British politics.
The trouble with this coyness, however, is that it’s the electorate who are being short-changed. As long as each party refuses to say who they would and who they wouldn’t do a deal with – whether that means a coalition or something less formal – voters will have no real way of knowing what the government will look like come Friday morning.
It’s a bizarre situation. Tomorrow morning people across the UK will head to the polls and vote in 650 MPs. But the government we end up with will be decided in the ensuing days in private Whitehall meetings and behind closed doors. The election has become a formality; it’s afterwards that the power brokering really begins. It might be exciting – we’ll all be glued to our TV screens and radio sets, I’m sure – but it’s the voters who are, in the end, denied a look-in.
Matt Alagiah is Monocle’s associate editor.