Bill Clinton observed pithily that 'it is the economy, stupid' when it comes to the issue which decides elections. It would be a brave UK politician who would go against the Clinton mantra. Public finances were in a shocking mess when the Labour government resigned. Indeed one former Labour minister left a note for his Conservative successor stating 'there is no money left'.
The Coalition had to restore public finances by imposing austerity. The argument is over the extent of austerity and on whom cuts in services and benefits impacts and of course the distribution of cuts and increases in taxation. Allied to this is the question of the balance to be drawn between austerity and measures to stimulate economic growth. The electorate's opinions on these issues and how they affect them will be a major determinant of voting intentions.
The issue of Europe will generate much political heat in the months ahead. Will there be a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU? (I leave to one side the small matter of the referendum on Scottish independence and the competing claims on the effect independence for Scotland will have on its membership of the EU.)
Apart from UKIP which has a policy of supporting a referendum and seeking to leave Europe, what of the other parties? The Liberal Democrats published a document before the last general election in which Clegg stated that it was time for a real referendum, and the party would support staying in the EU. Labour probably will support the call for a referendum and campaign to stay in the EU.
The Conservatives? Oh dear. Some want a referendum. Some want to stay in the EU, others want out, whilst there are those who want to stay in but on renegotiated terms. The hokey-cokey party, in-out-shake -it- all -about.
The current travails of the euro have been documented on this blog, together with the economic downturn in many eurozone states accompanied by civil strife.. Apart from the ongoing fire fighting, attention now is on the 'architecture' of the EU, how ever-closer fiscal and political union can be achieved.
The leadership of the Conservatives has suggested that it may be possible to repatriate to the UK some of ceded to the EU. President Hollande of France has poured cold water on this stating that membership of the EU is not a matter of selecting items from an a la carte menu.
For what it is worth, my opinion is that it is no good holding a referendum based on the current EU 'architecture'. We need to know what the structure of the integrated EU will be, in particular how nations outside the eurozone will be accommodated, before any referendum is held.
Still junk status.
Coming off the fence?
Will he stand for election? See: