Election messages usually come in two forms. On the one hand parties can offer a message of hope - a clear vision of where the country is going and what is possible. Think here of Barak Obama's electoral message of 'Hope' and 'Change' in the 2008 US Presidential election. On the other hand parties can play on people's fears - they can try and scare people into voting for them.
This General Election has been conducted almost entirely in the latter register. The three 'main' UK political parties - Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats - have all played on people's fears. Labour have argued that the NHS isn't safe in the Conservative Party's hands, the Tories have argued that Labour can't be trusted with the economy, and the Lib Dems have said that they are the only party capable of defending the national interest against the extreme positions of the other parties.
Looking at the results it seems that voters have been most convinced by the Conservative message. People seem to have decided to stick with the devil they know - supporting the Conservatives in large numbers across the country.
In the short term this is likely to result in political stability if the Tories are able to find a willing coalition partner. But, long term the approach taken in this campaign could result in change as it leaves a huge political space for a positive political message.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats in particular will be looking to redefine themselves if the polls are correct and there is a real opportunity for them to set out a positive vision for the country. The politics of idealism, ideology and values that we saw in the 2010 campaign (in ideas such as the 'Big Society' and 'a Future Fair for All') could therefore re-emerge in the coming years, giving political debate a far more positive spin.
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