The maxim “be careful what you wish for” never seemed more appropriate than after last week’s general election that resulted in the shock of a Conservative government with a majority.
Analysis as to why opinion polls, not for the first time, were inaccurate in predictions of no clear winner will continue for quite some time.
However, don’t expect any reduction in pollster activity in the lead-up to the next general election; probably quite the contrary.
What last week’s general election did expose was that the UK seems to be a more fragmented place than ever.
Though we’ve avoided the uncertainty that would have resulted from the uncertainty of a hung parliament, the outcome of an elected government with a pretty slim majority has thrown up a number of questions.
Crucially, as many commentators are suggesting, the economic problems that existed prior to the election are still there and were largely ignored by all parties in the campaign to win our votes.
Even more worryingly what the general election has shown is that we have a system of voting that is extremely poor at creating a government that can claim to represent the majority of the population.
Worse, as some fear, the result of the election may mean that in five years from now the UK as it currently exists may be somewhat altered and that Scotland may no longer be part of the UK.
For starters we can expect the next two years to be dominated by the referendum that will take place in 2017 as to our continued membership of the EU.
The arguments for and against will, understandably, generate much emotion.
What this debate will surface is the toxicity of whether we want to remain part of the EU and continue to work cooperatively for a better Europe.
The recent VE celebrations will be long forgotten.
In turn this debate will dredge up the inevitable issue of freedom of movement of workers and immigration.
As is being speculated, if this referendum results in our leaving the EU, Scottish voters who’ve shown their disdain for English-centric political parties may choose to see their future as being better served by being an independent nation that is part of the EU.
The attitude of Scottish voters will be hugely influenced by the economic decisions that need to be taken by David Cameron in the very near future.
The Conservative manifesto promised significant cuts though, let’s not forget, the widely respected Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) believed the figures not to be credible.
These cuts are intended to eliminate the budget deficit whilst there was a commitment to no increases in income tax, VAT or national insurance.
Cynics were quick to point out that we have heard this before and the budget was supposed to have been eliminated in the last parliament.
The key question that the IFS and other economic commentators asked during the election campaign is where will the money come from to pay off the budget deficit?
Proposals to make savings of £13 billion by a number of Whitehall Departments will be, to say the least, extremely challenging; particularly given the intention to protect the schools budget and maintain spending levels for the NHS.
Paul Johnson of the IFS is not the only one to ask why if such savings are now thought to be possible, why weren’t they identified sooner?
It can be reasonably assumed that many more public sector jobs will disappear.
Given that many parts of the UK are reliant on them – such as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as much of the ‘North’ – will create possible tension and increased inequality between them and London.
Another controversial spending intention by the Conservatives was to reduce the welfare budget by £12 billion; something hotly debated during the election campaign.
However, like much of the debate in the run-up to the election, the notion that simply getting the ‘workshy’ into employment will create a saving of some £12 billion is ludicrous.
Even if many of those currently unemployed were to find jobs the chances are that these would be low-paid and require the recipients to claim tax benefits.
Iain Duncan Smith’s switch to so called ‘universal credit’ is woefully behind schedule and, besides, it’s increasingly unlikely to save more than a few hundred million pounds.
If the £12 billion is to be saved, and cynics suggest that this was added as a bargaining ploy which could be reduced in the event of coalition talks with the LibDems, it will result in cuts in child benefit, reduced housing benefit for those in low-paid jobs and cuts in incapacity benefit.
Ironically it’s entirely likely that some of those affected by such cuts voted for the Conservatives in the belief that sticking with the long-term spending plan would be to their advantage.
If making poor people poorer is the consequence of these cuts there will be a feeling of increased exasperation across the UK but most particularly in places where poverty is endemic.
As my fellow columnist Professor David Bailey explained in his blog last week, the impact of austerity severely undermined growth in the first two years of the last parliament.
Any growth that we have experienced recently, and it is largely based on increased consumption fuelled by personal debt, will be once again be impacted by the sort of austerity that is promised; probably even more so than last time.
We’re as far away from the goal of rebalancing the economy to reduce reliance on financial services and back to manufacturing than we were at the beginning of the last parliament.
That Vince Cable – a paragon of sound economic logic – is no longer present in government is a reason to be genuinely regretful.
The world economic backdrop is far from certain.
The possibility of Greece leaving the European single currency remains entirely plausible.
Dominant world economies such as America, China and those of emerging nations continue to give cause for concern.
Oil prices will not remain low for the long-term.
Many speculate that given economic cycles within the next five years we’ll see another next global financial crisis.
So, in contemplating the next five years David Cameron will have to tread carefully lest his policies result in some parts of the kingdom becoming even more resentful and, as a result, willing to go it alone.
However, he will also be aware that, with resonance to John Major’s position after the 1992 election, his ability to negotiate will be hampered by the need to keep his own MPs satisfied that he is working in their interests.
This will apply to any negotiations that are carried out concerning concessions on Europe.
David Cameron will be acutely aware of his premiership being remembered for the break-up of the UK.
His intention of retiring and handing over to his successor before the next election may become increasingly attractive.