Hardcore 12 months of voting ahead?

For those with little or no interest in politics, it’s going to be a long 12 months as local and EU elections, followed by the Scottish independence referendum, then the general election on 7 May 2015, mean a year of political campaigning. It’s bliss for political junkies like our man in Westminster, who can’t wait..

It’s worth reflecting that, with the House returning from the Easter recess next week, we are about to enter one of the most important, and longest, periods of political electioneering in living memory. The campaigns for the local and European elections on 22 May will start in earnest and, when these are over, all minds will be concentrated on the Scottish referendum. By any stretch of the imagination this is one of the most important votes this country has faced for a very long time indeed – and most of us aren’t even allowed to take part in it. And then political minds will turn to the general election in May 2015.

The local and European elections will provide an interesting insight into the mind of the electorate, but I’m not sure it will be an accurate reflection of what might happen at the general election.

Firstly, turnouts at local elections are always low, although on this occasion probably boosted somewhat by the European elections. Secondly, while it seems clear that UKIP will do very well and might just beat Labour into first place in the European elections, I have a strong hunch that this will be no more than a mid-term risk-free protest vote.

A strong UKIP showing will create panic in No. 10 and Conservative Central Office. But are Conservative voters who desert to UKIP really so stupid that they would vote the same way in a general election?

It is so plainly obvious that a vote for UKIP helps put Labour into No. 10 – and with that a referendum on our membership of the EU goes up in smoke. Those currently supporting UKIP because they want a referendum would achieve the one thing they don’t want – a Labour government – if they continue with that support. But then the right wing of the Conservative Party has never been known for its common sense.

For those with coach and bus interests in Scotland, start preparing for independence.

I know the polls continue to show a majority of favour of keeping the Union, but the polls are narrowing, and there is a growing sense of real concern in No. 10 that this might be slipping away. There are still many ‘don’t knows’ and I have a strong hunch that they may swing behind the ‘yes’ campaign – because the more London warns Scotland of the dire consequences of independence, the more I think the Scots might just tell London to ‘go hang’.

For those with little or no interest in politics, it’s going to be a long 12 months. But for political junkies like me, I can’t wait. A year of political campaigning – bliss!

Back to buses. Not much to report, which is a good thing. In the political world no news can often be good news. I was struck by a recent comment from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) asking whether we were about to see the introduction of a joint concessionary pass for bus and train travel, after a year-long trial on the Greater Western rail franchise which allowed senior and disabled concessionary bus holders to receive a discount of 33% on rail fares on selected routes without a railcard.

You won’t be surprised that the trial was a great success, with nine out of 10 people saying they would use rail more if they could get a third off the cost of the fare. Did the CBT really expect any other response?

Who is going to object to a 33% discount on a rail ticket? Whether this represents good value for the taxpayer, I’m less clear.