Shane Hickey: The biased front pages of the British press illustrate this election will be the tightest in a generation
IF there was someone, somewhere in the UK with even a passing interest in politics who was in any doubt about where the majority of the British press stood ahead of tomorrow’s election, that was dismissed as the front pages emerged late last night.
"For sanity’s sake, don’t let a class war zealot and the SNP destroy our economy - and our nation," screamed the front page comment from the Daily Mail.
"Nightmare on Downing Street," headlined the Daily Telegraph above a picture of Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party.
Unsurprisingly, the Sun held back the least, using the now-infamous picture of Ed Miliband grappling with a bacon butty to illustrate "This is the pig's ear Ed made of a helpless sarnie. In 48 hours, he could be doing the same to Britain. SAVE OUR BACON", bringing back memories of 1992 when the paper asked that if Neil Kinnock won, "will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights".
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The British press wearing their party colours on their sleeves is nothing new of course. What today’s front pages do show however is just how tight the election is expected to be and how uncertain of what the eventual result and profile of the government will be.
Talk of an overall majority by any party was left behind a long time ago, conversation instead having turned to the various permutations which would bring a coalition.
The latest poll - this one for the Financial Times - put both Labour and the Conservatives at 33pc of the vote with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg saying a coalition is “very likely”.
That the election is so close does give some merit to claims that this will be a contest which is talked about by future generations with no lack of colourful sideline developments away from the big question, including the apparent rise in popularity of UKIP, the Democratic Unionists possibility of being wooed in a hung parliament and the use of celebrity endorsements by both sides - including Russell Brand by Labour - to try and gain an edge.
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Crucial in Ireland - so much so that the government has set up a unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to deal with it - is the certainty that there will be an in/out referendum on Britain’s future in the EU if David Cameron is returned as prime minister, in either a majority or coalition government. It goes without saying that a ‘Brexit’ would have enormous ripple effects in Ireland.
So beyond the exit polls expected at 10pm tomorrow, it is unlikely there will be any clearcut ‘winner’ with 323 seats (since Sinn Fein does not take up its seats, this figure is reduced from 326) and another starting gun will be fired on Friday morning - not on a new government but on the frantic negotiations to form one.
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