We’re all set for a fascinating election count

TV OUT. ALL BROADCAST WEBSITES OUT. NO USE AFTER MAY 14.''No cropping permitted. Picture must be credited to ITV. ''Video grab taken from ITV of (left - right) Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, Ukip leader Nigel Farage, Labour leader Ed Miliband, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prime Minister David Cameron during the 7-way televised leaders' debate at the ITV studios in MediaCityUK in Salford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday April 2, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: ITV/PA Wire''NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

TV OUT. ALL BROADCAST WEBSITES OUT. NO USE AFTER MAY 14.''No cropping permitted. Picture must be credited to ITV. ''Video grab taken from ITV of (left - right) Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, Ukip leader Nigel Farage, Labour leader Ed Miliband, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prime Minister David Cameron during the 7-way televised leaders' debate at the ITV studios in MediaCityUK in Salford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday April 2, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: ITV/PA Wire''NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

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If we look at what’s happening in Scotland, it sets this up to be one of the most interesting Westminster elections we have ever seen,” said Martin McGuinness.

If we look at what’s happening in Scotland, it sets this up to be one of the most interesting Westminster elections we have ever seen,” said Martin McGuinness.

He hit the nail on the head. It will be fascinating no matter how it goes. The result, that is.

It’s the campaign that’s tedious. We have to get through that first, before we get to the thrill of the count. Election counts always make great spectator sport and this one, as Martin McGuinness says, has been set up nicely.

Meanwhile, Cameron’s campaign has an air of desperation. He underestimated Milliband. The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon combines her woman-next-door image with her impressive political competence to deadly effect.

It’s all set for a ‘hung’ parliament. The English hate that. The two biggest parties clung tenaciously to their first-past-the-post system because it makes coalitions less likely. They resisted Lib Dem demands for proportional representation, but the ‘straight’ vote won’t work this time. ‘Coalition’ was always a dirty word. ‘Coalitions’ were seen, with typical British arrogance, as OK for lesser races. They were endured in unfortunate European countries like Italy, or Germany, or Ireland. The popular English prejudice is that coalitions are weak and unstable. The English felt superior with their so-called ‘strong’ governments.

Only the other day an educated lady of my acquaintance said, “I don’t mind who wins the election so long as it isn’t a coalition.” And, there’s still widespread amazement that the outgoing Tory/Lib Dem coalition survived a full term. There’s seldom any recognition of the positive point that coalitions provide more pragmatic and less ideological government.

Well, sorry to disappoint the lady quoted above, but it looks most unlikely that any one party in Britain will have a majority at the end of next week. There may not be a formal coalition but there will have to be some inter-party arrangement.

Amazingly, Nick Clegg was scathing about the prospect of Labour depending on SNP support, a party all set to “break up the UK”. Doesn’t he know any British history? Wasn’t that precisely what his Liberal predecessor Gladstone did in the 19th century? Wasn’t Home Rule offered in return for Irish support? And haven’t both main parties depended on unionist support in more recent times?

Meanwhile, the DUP are excited that they could be the kingmakers. They already have their shopping list, including allowing the Orange Order to march all over the place. They must know neither Cameron nor Milliband could offer that; it would be undeliverable, but that won’t stop it impressing the gullible in the meantime.

The post-election face-saving will be intriguing.

Ed Milliband says he won’t deal with the SNP but he won’t be in government if he doesn’t. David Cameron may need UKIP and/or DUP support in addition to his former Liberal Democrat partners. The prospect of government needing far-right support is unsavoury, to say the least.

Either way, the prospect of another referendum on Scottish independence is looming on the horizon in addition to an in /out referendum on the European Union. It looks like a bumpy road ahead. Martin McGuinness’ comment about it being “most interesting” sounds like understatement. Still, we mustn’t take too much pleasure in our neighbour’s discomfort because we’ll be lucky to survive it all unscathed.