There is nothing new in UK politics about some people wanting to vote for parties that are mainly about regional and national identity and related financial isues rather than about the main choice between major parties of the Union. Our Union has been the object of major debates in many decades. In a way that is very healthy, and has led to political change in the shape of our union and to the various powers held under the UK Parliament by different parts of the Union.
The 1974 October election saw 11 Scottish Nationalists,10 Ulster Unionists, 3 Plaid Cymru, one Social Democrat and Labour and one Independent elected to a Parliament with no overall majority for Labour or the Conservatives. There were 39 MPs from parties other than Labour or Conservative, and the Speaker.February that year had also seen 37 MPs other than Labour or Conservative and the Speaker elected for seven different parties, with no overall majority for anyone.
On that occasion those two Parliaments produced Labour minority governments which presided over economic calamity, the country running out of money, a trip to the IMF, and major cuts in public spending forced by the economic circumstance of a country whose government was unable to control its budget properly.
On current opinion polls there could be more MPs from nationalist parties than in 1974, if the present popularity of the SNP is sustained until polling day. This will require some justice for England in the next Parliament, something which seems to be in small supply from most parties. We will need the Conservative policy of English votes for English issues.
It also means paradoxically that the people of England will be able to choose who governs the UK with less help from outside England, if enough English voters can agreee on which of the two main parties should win. Only if English voters remain very evenly split between Labour and the Conservatives, or if a large number of English voters themselves want to vote for other parties do we end up with a situatlon where there is no majority government. I find it fascinating that Labour still does not see the need to offer fairness to England in such a situation, at a time when many English voters do want a new settlement for them.