Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to win a May 7 national election and form a minority government, but his grip on power could be so tenuous that Britain will hold a second ballot this year, the leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip) warned.
Opinion polls indicate neither Cameron’s Conservatives nor the opposition Labour Party will win an overall majority in the 650-seat parliament as millions of voters turn to Farage’s anti-EU Ukip party and the separatist Scottish National Party (SNP).
The closest British election in at least a generation has flummoxed seasoned politicians and City of London financiers who are pouring over opinion polls and Westminster seat predictions to see who might rule the world’s sixth largest economy.
Farage, a 50-year-old former metals trader who wants Britain to leave the European Union, said his best guess was that Cameron would get the most seats and then lead a minority government shored up by Ukip and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
“The Tories are going to be the biggest party,” Farage, who is running for election in the South Thanet constituency in southern England, said in an interview. “You probably get a minority government.”
Both the Conservatives and Labour say they are aiming to win outright without having to rely on other parties.
Farage, when pressed on whether the projected seat numbers for the Conservatives, Ukip and the Ulster unionists would allow Cameron to scrabble together a viable minority government, said there could be a second election as in 1974.
In the February 1974 election, Labour’s Harold Wilson won the most seats but no overall majority and led a minority government for a few months before calling another election in October 1974 when he won a tiny majority.
“You would expect a second election to see a decisive shift in one direction or the other but it didn’t happen in 1974 so we are in a strange place,” Farage said.
“In a situation when nobody could form an effective majority, the demands for electoral reform become huge,” he said, adding that Britain’s so called first-past-the-post winner-takes-all system would lose legitimacy if it failed to provide stable government.
When asked about a potential post-election internal party challenge against either Cameron or Labour leader Ed Miliband, Farage said: “The irony is if things are really in stalemate, neither will get knifed.”
Farage wants Britain to quit the European Union, to slash immigration and to return Britain to what supporters say was once a proud self-governing nation.
Opponents say Farage is a master orator who offers insecure voters an outdated vision of an imaginary Britain that never was. Some Ukip members have been publicly reprimanded or expelled for a range of racist and sexist comments.
A TV documentary last month showed a Ukip Thanet councillor saying she had a problem with “negroes” and wouldn’t sit next to someone who was black at dinner. She was expelled.
In 2013, one Ukip member of the European Parliament described women at a political meeting in an abusive manner.
Farage denied his party is racist, saying every party had “its idiots”.
Farage played down expectations of a massive breakthrough for his party on May 7, however, but said it needed to get a “respectable number” of seats to use as a spring board for the future.
Its real breakthrough would occur in 2020 after it had steadily built up confidence at local level across the country, he predicted.
“2015 is just the beginning of the journey for Ukip,” Farage wrote in his 305-page book, The Purple Revolution, which was published this month. Purple is the colour Ukip uses on its party branding.
“I am already thinking of 2020. I genuinely believe that Ukip can be a very major party in that election, but not if our voters think we have sold out.”
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