The real possibility of chaos after the election would not come with a Labour Government backed by the SNP and others, but with a Conservative-led Government leading the country into a referendum. Of course one assumes that David Cameron would contrive to argue to stay in the EU, and that it is most likely that the UK will vote to stay in the EU. That is not the point.
Just as the 1975 referendum was followed by a losing but resurgent Labour left gaining dominance in the Labour Party, and just as the SNP, despite losing the independence referendum are now poised to make major gains in the General Election, so the Tory right would grow much stronger within the Tories after an EU referendum. What would be especially nasty for the Tories is that during the referendum campaign the Europhobes inside the Tories will have formed a common movement with UKIP.
The resulting political realignment would probably destroy the Conservative Party as we know it. It will surely put them out of office for many years. Perhaps this looming chaos is what has convinced David Cameron to announce his early departure from being Prime Minister.
This scenario is something the Liberal Democrats should think long and hard about as they consider their position in what could be a knife edge Parliamentary position after May 7th. They will not only have to think about whether a majority of a few seats for a continued coalition will really last 4-5 years or whether they could be in a government that could be brought down within 2-3 years – not just by election defeats but by a civil war within the Conservatives involving a high possibility of defections to UKIP. The Liberal Democrats could end up being sucked down a whirlpool in the process.
It is highly ironic, therefore, that the Tories should now be (practically only) campaigning about a so-called SNP blackmail of Ed Miliband. In fact the SNP have few high cards to play – they have little choice but to end up backing Labour rather than bringing the Tories back into office – because if they did the SNP would lose their newly won seats to Labour at the following election!
But by contrast, a Conservative Government set on course for a referendum that will only generate a right wing activist anti-establishment movement in the process is heading for self-destruction. Little in British politics could compete with the chaos that will result from that. If any election was politic for the Conservatives to lose, and for Labour to win it is this one – for long term Tory interests if not Labour’s! But before we drown ourselves in cynical hopes, we should know of course that we should avoid a referendum that has declining support amongst the electorate and focus on getting some more equality back into the economy. Not to mention some ecological sustainability.