If David Cameron ends up as Prime Minister after the General Election it will likely be at the helm of one of the most unpopular governments ever. A recent YouGov poll shows that David Cameron’s most likely route to power is also the route most hated by the public. Two thirds of voters are opposed to a Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Ukip and DUP grouping, which looks like the only road David Cameron has left to achieving a majority in the House of Commons.
As the election results come in early on Friday morning, Tory and Labour strategists won’t just be tallying up their own seats. There will also be boards in their offices for potential partners, where they will be pinning up the constituencies controlled by parties that might be persuaded to vote through their Queen’s speech.
The polls have been deadlocked for months. No matter what they call it – a coalition, confidence and supply or informal deal – any potential Prime Minister will need the votes of other parties to pass a Queen’s speech, even if they then go on to govern with a minority in the House of Commons. And it looks like the only way David Cameron can come close to getting a majority of the House will be if together the Tories, Lib Dems, Ukip and DUP can get the 323 seats they need to pass a Queen’s speech.
But to make Cameron’s unlikely cabal come together, not only will the parties all have to outperform current predictions (YouGov’s prediction today puts them at a combined 320 seats, three short of a working majority) but they will have to go directly against the grain of public opinion. Of all of the different groupings polled by YouGov, the grouping most likely to keep David Cameron in Downing Street is the least popular, with an approval rating of minus 49.
To put this into perspective, this potential governing group has less support than Jim Callaghan’s government did in December 1976, when he was forced to deliver a Greek-style package of public spending cuts in return for an International Monetary Fund bailout. It is also considerably more unpopular than a Labour and SNP grouping, which comes in with a net approval rating of minus 37.
This public verdict is a disaster for David Cameron, who has been leading a Conservative Party offensive on what a ‘coalition of chaos’ involving Labour and the SNP might mean for Britain. The reality is that the British public are more worried about what Cameron’s cabal could do to the country.
It will not be long after the polls close on Thursday evening before rhetoric from party spokespeople changes from “still hoping for a majority” to “getting the best deal for the British public”. And let’s be honest, today’s polls show that no deal will be popular. But one thing is for sure – a Cameron-led cabal of Tories, Ukip, Lib Dems, and the DUP won’t just have a tough time agreeing amongst themselves, they will face a far tougher time from the British public. Bringing such a grouping together will be the very last thing the public wants.
Cameron Tait is Senior Researcher at the Fabian Society. He tweets at @cameronrjtait.