Friday, 28 May 2010

Without Fear track #3 - Lighten Up, No Thanks


Another track-by-track blog about my album WITHOUT FEAR, released in December 2009. Below is the chirpy, catchy "Lighten Up, No Thanks" on the player. Have you ever been told things like "Why the long face?" or
"Cheer up mate, it might never happen!" when it already has? This song is for you!



http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_2954488


MUSIC
This is a straight-up bouncy, catchy, acoustic-indie-rock song - nothing special about the production or any fancy effects.

That said, there are about 3 or 4 tempo changes during the song, which took ages to work out! I remember choosing it as the very first track of my solo material to record with Matt Langley (of The Library Suits and Captain What), which was a stupid idea because I was always demanding changes to the tempo. I think it was worth it in the end - it creates ebb and flow, and gives real dynamics to the song's mood. But Matt may not forgive me for those tortuous first couple of sessions.

Recording this myself made me realise how much easier producing music would be on my own. I didn't know exactly what I wanted before starting it, but I had a picture in my mind, and through the trial and error of working it out I didn't waste anyone else's time. Also I am notoriously loose when it comes to playing guitar. In the old band, my priority playing live would be just to hit roughly the right chords in the right time while spinning around, and during recording sessions I remember Jon (also of The Library Suits fame) screaming from 2 rooms away to get it right after about the 12th take.

Needless to say I am a little bit tighter with my guitar playing now, and I am much more considerate/casual when it comes to recording with other people (such as the acoustic sessions with Matt recorded last October in the UK). But still, "Lighten Up" was a defining track for me in my learning process on recording and producing my solo material.

LYRICS
The lyrics are the most important part of this song, as hopefully you can see. I'm not a deliberately moody person - I'm no emo - but I remember looking back at the first 20ish years of my life and seeing a barrage of people telling me to "cheer up" when a) I wasn't upset, or b) I really was upset and these people had no idea or right to tell me how to feel. Usually it was said with a thuggish kind of grin, and by the same people who told me I "think too much". So you know what? Fuck those people :)

There's some great lines in this song, but I think my favourite that sums it up is "What the hell would you know? You're no good at being a cynic". There are many people in this world who don't understand satire or cynicism, and many others who think sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. To hell with all of them. Thinking and feeling have more than 1 dimension, and you're the only person who can know how you think and how you feel.

Listen to this song, and feel the awesome liberating joy that only cynicism can bring.

Have you ever had a hundred thoughts in a second?
Are you living life the way you’d reckoned?
You walk around with that smile on your face
I want to say that your bubble is a hollow sham

Lighten up, no thanks
Lighten up, no thanks
You say I think too much, well you don’t fucking think enough
I’m happy as I am, so lighten up no thanks

Have you ever had a hundred thoughts in second?
I don’t think so
Are you living life the way you’d reckoned?
Someone would have told you so
And you’ve still got that stupid smile on your face
I wanna say that your bubble is a hollow sham

Lighten up, no thanks
I’ll tell you where to go
Lighten up, no thanks
I don’t think so
You say I think too much, well you don’t fucking think enough
I’m happy as I am, so lighten up no thanks

You’re the happiness fascists, you’re telling people what to think
But what the hell would you know, you’re no good at being a cynic
And I shouldn’t have to tell you all the things that I’m aware about
I’m living life, because I know the things I really care about
One more time!
One more time
One more time, lighten up no thanks


You can listen to and buy the album at any of these fine places:

Monday, 24 May 2010

Muse fan unhappy at Twilight single

Okay, so that title isn't exactly world news. Or is it? Muse are a global band, which means it's world "something". And in my opinion they have never done anything obviously bad - until now, which makes it news. The new Muse single, official song from the Twilight film Eclipse, is bad.

THE SONG
When Muse announced they had a single called "Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)" coming out I was excited - I thought it would be another excellent combination of futuristic sci-fi and romantic poetry that we've seen on Absolution, Black Holes And Revelations and The Resistance. How wrong I was.

The song itself is about the blandest pop song anyone could ever write with a title of "Neutron Star Collision". It may grow on me a little bit, but that would just take it from "awful" to "something I would never choose to listen to". I can't even remember a worse* single they've released - the closest thing I can think of is In Your World from the 2002 double A-side with Dead Star, but that still has an awesome piano/guitar riff. "Neutron Star Collision" rates lower than many b-sides and album tracks the band have made.

THE VIDEO
Oh god. It's an official song from the official Eclipse soundtrack, which means it has clips of the film in it. For any average-to-middling band, this might be seen as a step up - or maybe just acceptable with something as cringe-makingly terrible as the Twilight series. A good business decision, perhaps, for a band that would otherwise struggle for financial security, like when the Dandy Warhols gave that annoying song to Vodafone, or when Shed Seven re-recorded the lyrics of Speakeasy for mobile phone shop The Link.

But Muse? Muse who straddle the world like a pop-rock-electronic-prog colossus? Muse, who withdrew from Maverick Records to retain artistic control of Origin Of Symmetry? Yes, Muse who now sell out stadiums, arenas, tours, etc. etc. and still write and record challenging, intelligent music. It's just flat-out plain unnecessary.

The big irony of official-videos-for-the-official-song-for-the-official-film(-of-the-official-book) is that now, in the Youtube age (when any 12-year-old can make a cut-and-paste video of their favourite film with their favourite song), Neutron Star Collision - the product of an amazingly creative band and a production company making a multi-million dollar film - looks like a cheap and tacky fan video.

MY POINT
Muse are one of my favourite bands ever. Like, top 2**.
I'm not the biggest Muse fan in the world - I've never queued up for hours to get a glimpse after a gig, and I even criticised a girlfriend once for buying an autographed EP on Ebay in 2002 for about £25 (which is now probably very rare and worth a lot more, but that's not the point). But I've been a fan since the first album Showbiz 10 years ago and love, to a greater or lesser degree, everything they've done. They're fantasically awesome and they're better than this.

I know Stephenie Meyer was always a fan of Muse when she started writing the first Twilight books, and I realise it makes absolute sense from a business point of view. The video itself looks very cheap to make, I imagine they got paid a lot of money up front to do it, and will make a lot of money from the sales (both now and in 20 years' time when the series will be inevitably re-made), and it will open their back catalogue to a lot of vamp-chick-lit fans who would never normally consider listening to interesting, quality rock music. And I know that Supermassive Black Hole already went on the soundtrack for the last Twilight film. And maybe I should even be grateful that it's not from a real Muse album, which shows even the attitude of Muse themselves towards it creatively.

But seriously.

I think I'll wait another 3 years for the next mind-blowingly brilliant album, rather than listen to film-sponsored wallpaper paste.

You too can have the disappointment of watching the Muse video for "Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)" on the MTV site here.

* When I say "worse" I mean creatively. Yes, the song is catchy, and it sounds kind of cool - because it's a direct rip-off of songs from their last few albums (e.g. the Knights Of Cydonia drums). Muse are awesome because all their singles and albums have creativity at their heart and soul; this song, by their standards, is lazy.

** The other is the Manic Street Preachers, if you were wondering.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Book A, Book B or Book C?

As you probably know I'm feverishly working on video editing and mixing for my Dinosaurs single at the moment, but I still have small moments where I can write in my notebook, and I'm hoping to have a new full length book out (60,000+ words) by the end of the year.

The question is which one?

I've got working concepts for 3- let me know which idea tickles your fancy! I've got my own preferences so I'l try and be even-handed:

BOOK A
Sci-fi/Comedy/Futuristic
Man wakes up in a bizarre future, where anything is possible and there are no limits. As well as trying to find out what happened to the world and how he got there, he has to solve a murderous conspiracy, a war between feuding corpor-nations, and if there's any way he can get back...
Includes killer flashmobs, classical music chavs, and a talking cat that is definitely not a robot.

BOOK B
Comedy/Mild fantasy/Farce/Coming of age?
University as you've never, or maybe always seen it. Following a kid's first year at an English uni, from the awe-struck first days to the terror of exams, with little bits of magic on the way.
Featuring binge drinking, student sex, appearing bicycles, warring departments, a magic portal, happy atheists and a cat called Thatcher.

BOOK C
Political/Comedy/Adventure/Alternative history?
A man is the leader of a popular social movement which quickly becomes unpopular and loses its movement. Down and discredited, it's only a series of hilarious accidents that kickstarts a real revolution which just might change Britain forever...
Includes a dyslexic supercop, a gay muslim environmentalist, a lesbian cybergeek, and just about every send-up of political "revolutionaries" you can think of.

Which one excites you the most?

P.S. Got lots of other ideas on the backburner, so let's say "none of the above" is hidden option D :)

We have a government.

There was a hint of "if only" about this election. If only the seats for Labour (258) and the Conservatives (306) were the other way round - then it would've been a straightforward alliance between the Liberal Democrats (57) and Labour, with Gordon Brown resigning within 6 months and a progressive, liberal alliance moving forward. Unfortunately it didn't go that way, and politicians spent nearly a week faffing around looking at options.

In the end, we have a what I like to call a marriage of inconvenience - the liberal, lefty, LibDems supporting the right-wing, traditional, are-we-liberal-or-authoritarian Conservatives, led by David Cameron who has been trying to convince the country and his party that the Tories are actually all about civil liberties and political reform.  The only thing that has brought them together is the often-repeated need for strong and stable government, particularly with the British economy looking very dodgy and in need of solid political reform.

It could be the best result of the election.  It's been over a week since the agreement and lots of people have given lots of opinions, so I'm just going to go over the positive aspects of this unusual result.
  • Liberal Democrats are in power. People talk about "selling out" (both on the left of the LibDems and the right of the Tories), but whatever the costs were/are, the LibDems are finally in government with cabinet posts and policies. I think this is awesome.
  • Conservative policies that would normally be toxic and repugnant are molified by the need for LibDem support. And I think it's a decent trade. Those of us on the liberal and left side of things predicted a shift to the right with this election, and could never have assumed any Liberal Democrat policies would be enacted; meanwhile, those on the right happily assumed their wet dreams about bringing back fox-hunting and repealing the Human Rights Act would of course be implemented. Not so now! The result is a cautious, consensual approach because neither side can afford doing without the other, which is probably exactly what Britain could do with. (Who knows how long it will last, but still.)
  • The Income Tax threshold is apparently going up to 10,000 pounds, which is a MAJOR concession from the Conservatives, a party that in recent years seriously discussed (and many of whose members seriously believe in) a flat tax. (In contrast, New Zealand's governing National Party is raising GST (VAT) which will hit the poorest hardest, while Prime Minister John Key makes excuses for the super-rich. Who on earth thinks trickle-down economics has any credibility?)
  • ID cards being scrapped - Labour, what were you thinking?
  • Brown is gone, Labour are in opposition, and they have a chance to get a new leader and get their proverbials together. Personally I like David Miliband, although he has a horrible habit of showing the calculations going on in his head while he's talking.
  • A referendum on changing the voting system will happen. That's far from actually changing the voting system. First the LibDems need Parliament to pass a referendum (easy), they need that referendum to be clearly-worded (less likely), then they need the public to say "yes" (difficult), and THEN they need Parliament to pass it (very difficult - the Tories have only agreed to a referendum, not to say "yes"). BUT it is the first step in the right direction and a welcome sight after 13 years of Labour blocking the issue when they had a big majority and ample chance to make it happen.
I'm sure there are a few more as well, and likewise many criticisms of the coalition, but I'm out of time at the moment.

One criticism I will mention, and counter, is that the LibDems are "propping up" a Conservative government. Firstly, there simply weren't the numbers needed for a Lab-Lib-Plaid-SNP coalition (which would have been just as unstable), and from all accounts Labour simply weren't consistent or ready to play ball in their negotiations. Secondly, I think being in government moderating the Tories and getting important neutral stuff done (when Britain's economy really is in the shit) is a far better route than opposing an untempered minority Tory government which can't get anything done, then folds causing a new election - which nobody wants.

My apologies for the lack of links in these hastily-written and fired-off posts! Normal service will hopefully resume shortly :)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Election Farce Explosion

Most of you know this already, but a few hours ago the whole UK election mess just got messier:

- Gordon Brown is resigning as Labour Party leader, and therefore Prime Minister if Labour somehow stay in power
- The Conservatives saw this and upped their offer to the Liberal Democrats, saying they'd give cabinet posts to LibDems and a UK referendum on changing to the Alternative Vote (AV) system
- The LibDems announced they are officially talking with Labour as well as the Conservatives, with Labour offering to actually implement the AV system and a further referendum on extending electoral reform further

So the LibDems are auctioning their support to the highest bidder, and now look in a much stronger position than they did even 12 hours ago when a limited Tory deal was the only thing on the cards.  But now everything has consequences!

- Former Labour cabinet minister Jim Reid is among a number of Labour people saying that opposition is a far better option for Labour than a difficult coalition with the LibDems
- If LibDems do any deal with the Conservatives, many of their voters will tear up their membership cards in protest and that's before the huge backlash when they get blamed for supporting the Tories' cuts to public services
- If LibDems do a deal with Labour, many voters will be unhappy that the 2nd and 3rd parties are in government (even though it's standard practice in coalition-forming around the world, and combined they would share far more of the vote than the Conservative party). And they still won't have a majority!
- Furthermore, if Labour are still in power, the next Prime Minister will be elected inside the Labour Party - just like Gordon Brown was - AFTER an election campaign has already been fought

Personally, as both a Labour and LibDem supporter, I kind of agree with Jim Reid. This is a shit election to win. Maybe the best result would be for LibDems to sign a deal with the Tories to get the referendum, then campaign with Labour to pass it. If the country says "yes" while the Tories say "no", it's another reason to vote them out next time.

The main priority surely for the LibDems now is to ensure proportional representation gets implemented - because however bad the shitstorm is in the short term, they'll get more MPs in the future.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Farce

You could've put this election on Failblog.org. In a nutshell:

- Labour lost their majority (258 seats, down from 349)
- Tories didn't get a majority (306, up 97)
- Liberal Democrats LOST seats (57, down from 62), and only gained 1% of the vote
- Brown is still in 10 Downing St, but the LibDems are talking to the Conservatives first about a deal (no official announcement as of 9:56pm GMT Friday 7th May).
- Thousands of people across England wanted to vote but couldn't due to various reasons, including lack of ballot papers, voter lists not updated with registered voters, and being turned away at 10pm after queueing for up to 2 hours
- Conservatives gained ZERO seats in Scotland, as did all parties - no change north of the border

The small good news:

- Caroline Lucas won the Green Party's first seat in Parliament, taking Brighton Pavillion from Labour
- The BNP gained ZERO MPs, and apparently lost a lot of money
- The Lib Dems are in a position to do a deal, hopefully involving electoral reform.

So what now?

- Traditionally, the existing governing party has the first chance to form a new government, even if they don't have the most seats or votes (Labour have neither)
- However, Nick Clegg said he'd go first to the party with the biggest mandate - this is clearly the Conservatives, and they're already talking
- Labour haven't given up though, Brown is still in 10 Downing Street stressing the similarities between Labour and LibDems

The situation for each party:

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
- Results are a vast disappointment from such a successful and high profile campaign. The electoral system distorted the results against them, as always, but they only gained 1% of the vote over the whole country, so it can't take all the blame. This puts them in a much weaker position when negotiating with Labour or the Conservatives.
- The Tories have offered to create a Lib-Con coalition, talks are going on right now I think. This is really the only opportunity to create a majority in the House of Commons, so if they don't take it, they could be accused of acting selfishly and irresponsibly. But the Tories are fundamentally opposed as a party to electoral reform, and the best they would offer (I believe) is a referendum in which the Conservative party would vote "no".
- Labour have since election day been offering a "progressive alliance", including proportional representation, but together with the Lib Dems they still only have 315 MPs - not a majority (325) and only just more than the Tories on their own.
- The LibDems are in a central position right now, but they don't have any space to manouevre. Getting a cast iron assurance of electoral reform, their number 1 priority, looks very difficult on both sides.

CONSERVATIVES
- Disappointed and upset with the results; after 13 years, everyone knows it's a failure not to get a majority. More upsetting is the idea of doing a deal with the Liberal Democrats who they disagree with on so much.
- If they can't do a deal with the LibDems, David Cameron's still hoping to go into power as a minority government, doing confidence and supply agreements to pass legislation with other parties. But the LibDems might want to make a minority coalition with Labour, which makes things very awkward indeed.

LABOUR
- In some ways, an amazing result for Labour - they seemed destined to be booted out of power, yet Brown is still prime minister and they have a slim chance of holding on.
- That said, even if the LibDems and Tories can't agree a deal and the LibDems side with Labour, part of negotiations may be for Brown to go. And to be honest, for all the support Labour clung onto, the election results read like a country who wants Gordon Brown out.

Sorry for lack of links, I'm in a rush!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

UK Election: I'm declaring for Lib Dems

Fancy talking is below, but first here's my advice for voting in the UK election on Thursday:

-Vote for the Liberal Democrats where they can win

-In Labour vs. Conservative constituencies, vote Labour

-In Brighton Pavillion, vote for the Green Party (Caroline Lucas)

This is quite a turnaround for me since last year's blog where I said not to vote for any of the main parties. (Follow-up blog here.)

But just look at this election - the Liberal Democrats have got the coverage they've always needed, and people are taking them seriously. Nick Clegg may not be as charasmatic in my eyes as Charles Kennedy or as statesmanlike as Paddy Ashdown, but he's shown himself to be a clear, serious politician with a voice for change.

More significantly, he is likeable and human, which David Cameron is not.

The opportunity for this election is to change the voting system to make it fairer and to change British politics to make it more consensual and less confrontational. The Liberal Democrats provide this opportunity.

The danger for this election is letting the Conservative party win an overall majority, or even just being the biggest party.

The Conservative party detests electoral reform, and will resist all attempts to change the voting system. They are the party of business and the party of Thatcher, and will always put the rich ahead of those on low and lower-middle incomes. They are quite frankly the last people to keep the banks in check after the bonuses scandal, and the last people to clean up Parliament after the expenses scandal. They are the party of the minority, not the majority, and no amount of Labour mistakes and glossy Obama-talk of "change" will change that.

There are two ways to look at Labour: 1) a spent force, who will benefit from a change of leader and time in opposition, or 2) the people who need one more term to keep the economic ship from sinking. The economy is the one thing Gordon Brown is good at, and if you think it's been bad under Labour, just think what cuts the Conservatives would have already made. I'm not asking for another Labour majority. But you may live in a seat where it is a clear-cut 2-way fight between Labour and Conservatives. If you do, the only sensible choice is to vote Labour.

The best result for this election is a Labour-Liberal Democrat alliance. The fact is neither party can make a government on their own, and both parties are rightly opposed to the Conservatives.

For Labour supporters, the LibDems want to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000. After the 10p fiasco, and in these difficult times, it's a brilliant and progressive step for those on low and middle incomes.

For LibDem supporters, after the failed promises of Blair in 1997, Labour are in no position to say no to electoral reform. This election is the best chance to change the voting system, and joining forces with Labour is the only way to stop the Conservatives ditching it from the agenda completely.

Finally, a mention for the Green Party in Brighton - by voting in the first ever Green Party MP, we can show that progressive politics extends beyond Labour and Lib Dems, and give a voice in Parliament to another principled party.

So.
If you have a vote in the UK, follow the steps above.
To non-UK friends and readers, you probably know someone with a UK vote - please send a link to this blog, or just describe the idea in words.

With luck and sensible voting decisions, we can wake up on Friday with a forward-looking progressive government. Spread the word.

Monday, 3 May 2010

UK Election - Unlikely, difficult, improbable, impossible?

I've been looking at various possible outcomes for the UK election, and my conclusions are that they are all unlikely.

It's a bizarre statement to make in any situation, but it reflects how little anyone can predict about what will happen on the 6th of May - less than 4 days away. While the polls have just changed the last few days to put the Conservatives out on top (thanks probably to the irrelevant event of bigotgate), it's nowhere near enough to be confident of an outright victory. Even outcomes considered impossible at previous elections (such as the Liberal Democracts coming 2nd) are now as likely - or rather, unlikely - as any other.

I've written a brief definition of terms at the bottom of this post.
Let's see what's on the cards!

Labour win majority - Very unlikely
Nobody wins elections - governments lose them. And after 13 years the mud has stuck. While we've seen a remarkable Labour fightback, it's no way enough to hand them a majority.

Conservatives win majority - Unlikely
After 13 years of Labour, it's amazing a naturally conservative country like Britain isn't automatically switching to the Conservative Party. For a Con majority the current polls would have to be drastically wrong.

Liberal Democrats come 2nd in votes - Unlikely
For Labour to drop to 3rd place in the national vote would be a vast change of scene for the country - too much to comfortably predict. Despite the recent LibDem bounce, many will switch back to Labour or Conservatives on polling day.

Liberal Democrats come 2nd in seats - Very unlikely
Even if the LibDems were to come 2nd in the national vote, to become the main opposition with the 2nd-most number of seats would be near impossible. Their surge in support this election is down to disillusionment with both main parties and the system itself, and the first-past-the-post electoral system discriminates strongly against support that is spread across the entire country.

Conservatives biggest party - Possible/probable
Going out on a limb here with "probable", but people want a change and it's mainly from Labour. While getting an actual majority is highly difficult for the Tories, getting the most number of seats is fairly straightforward. However this leads to an interesting situation... (see below)

Labour biggest party - Possible
Likewise, with the resurgent Labour Party doing much better than anyone would have predicted last year, it's still possible (if not very likely) that Labour will get the most seats in Parliament (just).

Labour-Lib Dem coalition - Possible
This is the most likely coalition in British politics - both parties claim to be left of centre and both parties have been talking of electoral reform (despite Labour doing nothing in the last 13 years, and it being the Lib Dems' principal demand). While Nick Clegg has been talking of Brown being an obstacle to electoral reform, if Labour won the most votes, neither party would be in a position to say no to a LibLab coalition government.

Conservative-Lib Dem coalition - Unlikely
Most Conservatives don't like the Liberal Democrats. They're furious this election that the LibDems have been doing so well when they should naturally be winning the election by a mile. They don't like the LibDems left-of-centre policies and, despite talking about civil liberties, Conservatives from the voters to David Cameron are more naturally suited to strong authoritarian government focused on middle-class property rights and working-class crime than on protecting civil liberties for all. Most of all though, Conservatives dislike the LibDems' demands for electoral reform and proportional representation - and they're fighting hard to do everything they can to avoid forming a LibCon coalition. They're even considering ruling as a minority government!

Any coalition with minor parties - Very unlikely?
I had this pegged as "very very unlikely", on the grounds that all of the minor parties below the Lib Dems have too few MPs and too different interests to make an impact. However, the financial times is reporting the Conservatives are talking with Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party about doing a deal in the event of a hung parliament, in order to avoid having to negotiate with the Lib Dems over electoral reform.

Personally I would have thought that national parties of Scotland and Wales, which are traditional Labour heartlands - neither of them elected any Conservative MPs in the 1997 election - would be strongly opposed to a party which has opposed devolution and which they often antagonise. But with 10 MPs between them at the moment, and probably more coming due to dissatisfaction with Labour, if the Conservatives get a big enough win it could make all the difference. Provided they can agree on anything!

So, what IS likely?
I had thought that at electoral reform was almost certain, with the Lib Dems doing extremely well and polls putting them 2nd - if it's a dead heat between Labour and Conservatives, Lib Dems will call the shots and get the reform they want (and arguably, Britain needs). However, as we draw close to election day, it's looking more likely that the Conservatives will either be able to pull off a coalition without the Lib Dems, rule as a minority government, or even possibly get a majority themselves - all of which would mean an end to the hopes of electoral reform.

So this leaves one thing I'm confident about:

Gordon Brown out, if not this election then within 2 years
If Labour lose this election - and it may be a good election to lose, because who wants to inherit this kind of mess? - there is no way Gordon Brown will stay as leader. However, even if Labour still hold power, he's likely to go anyway. Brown has lived in Downing Street for 13 years now, and it's highly likely he's had enough, and that his main incentive for winning is just to prove he could win an election, rather than for the love of being Prime Minister.

More importantly, it's highly unlikely Labour will continue to govern without a Lib Dem coalition - and Nick Clegg has already expressed his dislike of Gordon Brown. The Lib Dems can't argue for a new prime minister as soon as the election is over - but they can demand, as part of the "change" Britain wants and needs, that Gordon Brown step down soon.
There is very little possibility in any circumstance of Gordon Brown still leading the Labour party, in government or opposition, for more than another 2 years - at most.

Definitions - the boring bit
Majority: One party gets more seats in Parliament than all the rest of the parties combined (ie, at least half of all seats). This guarantees that the party will be an effective government, because it can make laws even if opposed by all the other parties.
Hung parliament: No party has a majority, and therefore can't be guaranteed to pass laws. This is a rare situation in British politics because of the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, which the Lib Dems want to change.
Electoral reform: Changing the electoral system. The current FPTP system is a "simple majority" system, meaning each constituency elects the candidate with the most votes. This can be 40% of the votes, or even less, and majority governments almost never get more than 50% of the country's overall vote. It also pushes out the Lib Dems and minor parties who may have support spread across the country, which never translates into actual seats. As such the Lib Dems have constantly campaigned for changing the voting system, and Labour have talked about it for a long time - however it is only on the cards now because Labour are unlikely to win without forming a coalition with the Lib Dems.
Coalition: If no party has a majority, the government can try and form a coalition by joining with other parties. Usually agreements will be made on certain policies which means laws will still be passed. Critics say it leads to weak governments because laws have to be made in agreement and by consensus, creating compromise rather than decisive actions. However many countries, especially in Europe, have been ruled by coalition governments for decades.
Minority government: If no government gets a majority, the largest party can choose to govern without forming a coalition. Instead, agreements are formed with other parties and MPs on each issue as they come up. This is more risky than forming a coalition, as the support needed to pass laws may not be there; however, the Conservatives are apparently considering it an option rather than forming a coalition with the Lib Dems. An example of a minority government today is Canada.