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A hung parliament is not a nice, fluffy option: it would mean paralysis at best, and chaos at worst

Nick Wood square Nick Wood's daily High Noon column

Judging from this morning's opinion polls, David Cameron is edging ahead in the race for Downing Street. On ICM, he is up 2 points on 35 and 9 points ahead of a sinking Labour Party. On YouGov, he is again up 2 points on 35 and Labour is down 3 on 27.

But Cameron is no longer running against just Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg. The dark horse in this race - and the one Cameron has to beat to get across the finishing line with a clear majority - is a hung Parliament. That is the real threat to a Conservative government as polling day comes closer.

One ray of light buried in the YouGov poll is that support for a hung Parliament is declining. It was at stratospheric levels of above 50 per cent. Now it is down to 37 per cent.

Most of the country have little idea what a hung or (God forbid) balanced Parliament means. It sounds quite nice: politicians of all parties putting aside petty differences to govern in the interests of the nation. All that cheap point-scoring and name-calling would evaporate in the spirit of national reconciliation.

Of course, that is nonsense. A hung Parliament would mean paralysis at best, chaos at worst.

It would ultimately reinforce the anti-politician mood in the land as all three parties, but especially Labour and the Lib Dems, embarked in a prolonged period of power politics in which both policies and personalities were sacrificed for selfish advantage.

Disappointment would abound. Those who voted for Clegg because they want to scrap Trident or because they like his idea of tax cuts for low earners would find their wishes frustrated as they were dashed on the rock of Labour intransigence.

It would be a magnificent irony if Clegg, the matinee idol of the anti-politician party, were to reinforce public contempt for the political process.

Peter Mandelson, determined to emerge from the train wreck of the Labour campaign as a winner, is already manoeuvring to ditch Brown as the price of cobbling together a coalition with the Lib Dems, with jobs for the orange boys thrown in.

Cameron has a clear imperative over the coming week to drive home the point that in a hung Parliament the country is the loser. Vital decisions about tax and spending would be ducked, the markets would dive, and Britain would strike an even more hesitant pose on the world stage.

Voting for Clegg means voting for Labour. Not poor old battered and bewildered Gordon, but Labour nonetheless. A discredited and exhausted Labour desperately trying to cling to power under a Miliband or an Alan Johnson. Cameron is right. Only the Conservatives represent real change.

Nick Wood, Managing Director, Media Intelligence Partners


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