Tag Archive | "minority government"

Hung parliament: what happens now? (7 May 2010)

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Hung parliament: what happens now? (7 May 2010)

Posted on 07 May 2010 by admin

The predicted results offer many scenarios for Westminster and the next inhabitant of 10 Downing Street

Election night 2010 was extraordinary, and it is still not really over. As dawn broke on 2 May 1997, there was no doubt that Tony Blair would be heading to Downing Street and leading a majority Labour government; but while it was obvious by breakfast time on 7 May 2010 that there would be a hung parliament with no overall majority, the rest of the story was far from clear.

Doubt over the last few results, which are still trickling in, means it remains to be seen what sort of hung parliament we will get. The difference between the Conservatives having 314 and 306 seats is a crucial one: if their numbers manage to tick up to 314, there is really no prospect of forming a non-Conservative government. The combined forces of Labour and Liberal Democrats would still be outnumbered by the Tories, and the prospect of a deal spanning Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru and one or more flavours of Northern Ireland MP lacks credibility. The only option would be for Gordon Brown to resign and David Cameron to form a minority government before parliament meets.

However, if the Conservatives fall short in the remaining marginal seats being counted and end up at around 306, then the combined Labour and Lib Dem benches would outnumber them. Though Labour and the Lib Dems would still be short of an outright majority, they could probably govern if the political will were there. The constitutional position is clear: Gordon Brown is entitled to stay in Downing Street and explore his options, even if the situation appears unpromising and the rightwing press is keen to push him out.

Given the political realities, Brown could also give other Labour figures some time to find common ground with the Lib Dems and smaller parties, a process that seemed to be starting as the results were coming in, with Harriet Harman and Peter Mandelson speaking out about electoral reform and “progressive” politics.

The chance of getting electoral reform may be a distant one, but it is the best on offer.

The surprisingly bad results for the Lib Dems may well discredit Nick Clegg’s confrontational approach towards Labour. But the leader and the party would need to find some loopholes fast in their previous talk of a party with a clear lead in votes and seats having a mandate.

There is no real need to hurry. The Queen’s speech is not until 25 May, and government can continue to tick along in election purdah mode for a couple more weeks. A transition period is perfectly normal practice in most other democracies, and the world will not come to an end if there is no quick outcome.

Whatever the result, there will probably be discreet talks about how to organise the formation of the government to minimise the potential for controversy around the Queen’s role in the process, and probably also to provide reassurance if the markets have serious wobbles (although it is open to the Conservatives to play hardball).

A consideration that will loom rapidly is the possibility of a second election, later in 2010 or in 2011. A minority Conservative government would find this attractive, and probably face no constitutional problem in calling another election. A tenuous Lib-Lab coalition, on the other hand, would want to try to run for longer, to make sure that electoral reform happens.

While British precedents suggest that a second election would probably be won by the Conservatives with an overall majority, there are no certainties, and a minority government would probably be unable to remap the constituencies to its own advantage, as a majority Conservative government would do.

The British constitution gives considerable advantages to an incumbent that should not be given up lightly. While the decision-making work of government is care and maintenance only, the central institutions of No 10 and the Cabinet Office can be used to prepare a Queen’s speech agenda with which to face parliament. And, if necessary, they can work on coalition deals on policy or personnel – just as they would do on an intra-party basis for a re-elected majority government.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/07/hung-parliament-what-happens-now

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Pollwatch: Election campaign is now a war of movement rather than attrition (21 April 2010)

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Pollwatch: Election campaign is now a war of movement rather than attrition (21 April 2010)

Posted on 21 April 2010 by admin

The surge in support for the Lib Dems adds two element of huge uncertainty into the electoral equation

Although details vary between pollsters, the position on the eve of the second debate seems to be that the Conservatives and Lib Dems are fighting it out for first place, with support somewhere in the low 30% range.

Monday night’s ComRes Tory figure, which put them on 35%, would have been regarded as terrible 10 days ago but now almost seems like a good result for the Conservatives.

Labour seems narrowly but definitely in third at the moment, with support somewhere around 26-28%.

What is remarkable so far is Labour’s sangfroid in the face of this apparently disastrous situation, compared with the Conservatives’ obvious nerves. Part of this is of course the ludicrous first-past-the-post electoral system, which could still deliver Labour the most seats in this situation. But the dynamics of campaigns can be brutal when one falls into a consistent third, and it is possible that a spiral of decline could set in.

The bright side of the situation for Labour is that to win this election, something dramatic had to happen – if the campaign ground on as it had been, with the Tory lead falling slowly, Cameron would probably have just about won enough seats to form a minority government.

Now that it is a war of movement rather than attrition, anything can happen. And perversely, despite riding so low in the polls, there seems to have been a slight shift (including among Lib Dem voters) towards regarding a Labour-led government as being a good outcome of the election.

There are two elements of huge uncertainty in the equation. One is to what extent the Lib Dem surge is sustainable until polling day (although if they are still doing well next week, that should be reflected in the postal votes being cast and therefore the result).

This is simply imponderable, and depends on the perceived outcomes of the two debates, and whether the need for an interesting narrative to tell in the media will cause the overdone adulation of Nick Clegg to be replaced by another story – of battler Brown coming through, or Cameron keeping his nerve and steering safely to victory.

The other uncertainty is more measurable. A huge amount depends on who these new Lib Dems are. Several different versions are possible. In the surges of 1974 and 1983, the Labour vote collapsed in the party’s weaker seats, sending the Liberals and Alliance into good second places in a lot of Tory territory.

If this happens again (and is mirrored by a Tory collapse in their weaker seats in urban England) it could produce a lot of Lib Dem first places. On the other hand, if novelty is a big factor, the new Lib Dems may pop up in precisely the places where it can do them the least good – places where there has been little local campaigning activity of the sort that has built up the Lib Dem strongholds. They could add a lot of votes, but few seats.

Mori’s poll for the Standard suggests deep inroads into Labour demographic territory (public sector workers, northern England) that is probably more consistent with the second theory. We must await detailed polls of the marginal seats contested between Labour and Conservatives to get a sense of what is perhaps the crucial question – which of the two parties is losing most where it counts?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/apr/21/pollwatch-election-campaign-war

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Welsh electoral system may produce surprise result (1 May 2007)

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Welsh electoral system may produce surprise result (1 May 2007)

Posted on 01 May 2007 by admin

Which parties get to form a government in Wales may depend more on who comes second than on how many seats Labour gets, writes Lewis Baston

The electoral system in Wales is significantly less proportional than the one used in Scotland.

In an assembly of 60 members, 40 are elected from single-member constituencies and only 20 from compensatory regional lists (Wales is divided into five regions, each with four regional seats).

This 33% element is not enough to produce the high level of proportionality achieved in Scottish elections and it sets a higher threshold for the election of smaller parties.

Coalition was always going to happen in Scotland, but not necessarily in Wales, and in a good year Labour could obtain a comfortable majority.

But in the last two elections Labour fell short, with 28 seats out of 60 in 1999 and 30 in 2003, when they were able to form a precarious executive without the Liberal Democrats.

The backdrop in 2007 is so unfavourable that the chances of Rhodri Morgan and his fellow assembly members winning another majority in Wales are remote at best, but there is still no doubt that Labour will emerge the largest single party.

The questions of the election are how far short of a majority Labour will fall, and who will come second?

Labour looks likely to lose constituency seats to the Conservatives such as Preseli Pembrokeshire and Clwyd West (both Tory gains in the 2005 Westminster election) and suburban Cardiff North, and the Tories have other, sketchier hopes elsewhere.

Plaid Cymru will hope to pick up Llanelli, and both they and the Conservatives are trying for the redrawn seat of Aberconwy in the north west.

This would take Labour down to 25 seats, although the party would probably pick up a compensatory list seat to make 26.

Most expectations are for Labour to have 24-26 AMs. This is probably not enough to run a minority government, and a coalition would need to be formed.

Labour has two potential coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats (with whom Labour worked well between 2000 and 2003) and Plaid Cymru.

Another tantalising option is the “rainbow” coalition of Conservative, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrats.

While this alliance between nationalist left and unionist centre-right may seem incongruous, it could work; the Welsh Conservatives are much more thoroughgoing modernisers even than Cameron supporters in England.

Strangely, the Conservatives’ chances of going into government would be enhanced by coming third rather than second in the election.

It would be easier for them to work under a Plaid Cymru First Minister than vice versa. The Conservatives coming second would also make Plaid Cymru a more attractive coalition partner for Labour.

Which government is formed may depend more on who comes second than on how many seats Labour gets.

The elections in Scotland, Wales and for Scottish local authorities are all in their way fascinating demonstrations of how much Britain has changed since 1997.

For someone so often lambasted as a control freak, Tony Blair has presided over a huge devolution of power, the consequences of which – local government electoral reform, a possible Plaid-Conservative government, even possible Scottish independence – spiral ever-further from his original intentions.

It is ironic, and perhaps sad, that the Labour party itself looks like getting buried in the rubble of this constitutional and political construction site.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/may/01/wales.devolution

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