In another indication that Britain has moved from two-party politics to an era of coalition, seven party leaders on Thursday night clashed in a live US-style television debate that reinforced forecast of a hung parliament and left many voters cold at the choice on offer.
Besides leaders of Conservative (David Cameron) and Labour (Ed Miliband), the debate starred leaders of Liberal Democrats (Nick Clegg), Scottish National Party (Nicola Sturgeon), UK Independence Party (Nigel Farage), Green Party (Natalie Bennett) and Plaid Cymru (Leanne Wood). The inclusion of leaders of UKIP, Green, SNP and Plaid Cymru indicated their growing influence in British politics in recent years.
Pundits differed on who emerged victorious, but almost all observers agreed that the divided verdict in opinion polls after the two-hour debate clearly reflected opinion polls that have consistently indicated Conservative and Labour in a close contest but nowhere near a majority.
But one leader who emerged taller after the debate was Nicola Sturgeon, who reiterated her desire for Scotland’s independence, but extended a hand of “friendship” to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the event of her party holding the balance of power after the 7 May elections.
One of the most possible coalition scenarios is Labour and Scottish Nationalist Party joining hands, a prospect that has raised much apprehension among English voters.