Independent readers agree: the result will be a hung parliament

A blast of fresh air blew through the dinosaur skeletons inside the Oxford natural history museum last night as readers of The Independent overwhelmingly voted a hung parliament the most likely outcome of next week's general election.

Certain newspapers were accused of "scaremongering" over the possibility of no party having a clear majority, as readers joined a panel of local parliamentary candidates and columnists from this newspaper in a heated discussion of Britain's political future – the second of three Independent Live debates in the run-up to 6 May.

The Oxford East seat is a key marginal constituency, held by Labour with a majority of only 963 votes. The current Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates made significant gains in the area in the last election.

The Liberal Democrats' Steve Goddard called for the media to look at the many examples of successful Western democracies where, he said, hung parliaments are "the norm".

He was joined on the panel by Labour candidate and incumbent MP, Andrew Smith, and the Tories' Ed Argar, as well as this newspaper's columnists Johann Hari, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Steve Richards.The audience was shown The Independent's new video, which highlights the roles played in the campaigns by Rupert Murdoch, Lord Ashcroft and the union Unite.

Addressing the Lib Dems, Mr Smith demanded all parties declare their intentions in the increasingly likely event of a hung parliament. His Tory counterpart hammered out the party line that a government with a working majority was needed for the country.

Many of those attending said they agreed with Mr Goddard. Ryan Halloran, a 22-year-old politics student at Oxford University, said: "A hung parliament may even be more effective than a government with a strong majority. In many countries, coalition governments have worked well."

History student Sunny Suri, 19, disagreed, insisting it would be wrong to change the political system so radically, so quickly. But he conceded that people would vote against sitting MPs: "Frustration with the current political system is their main motivation."

At last night's debate, questions were raised about the Pope's forthcoming visit to Britain and tempers flared as our columnist, Johann Hari, called for the Pontiff to be immediately arrested upon arrival for crimes against humanity. He accused the Pope of covering up instances of child molestation, adding, to great applause: "If anyone else had done that, they would be in prison and rightly so. Why is Josef Ratzinger any different?"

Mr Hari also clashed with an audience member who accused the government of "taking away freedom of choice" over homeopathic remedies.

One audience member asked the panellists which way they would vote in the event of a revisit to the foxhunting debate. Both the Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians confirmed they would support maintaining the ban, while Ed Argar for the Conservatives refused to be drawn.

Mr David Heaney asked the panel how important social equality was. Mr Smith insisted his Government had improved living standards for the poorest members of society but was attacked by Ms Alibhai-Brown, who accused the Labour government of "favouring their rich friends". "In 1997, we wanted a change from what we had under Thatcher and Major – you just carried on," she added.

As part of this newspaper's campaign to encourage debate during the election, democracy battlebuses will also be touring the country, under The Independent banner. They will be hosting soapbox hustings alongside Independent Live! debates.

Each weekday until 6 May, 300,000 copies of an edited-down special edition of The Independent are being handed out at train stations, in city centres and in key marginal constituencies.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific