Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Guardian poll prediction would mean constitutional crisis

The Guardian leads this morning on an opinion poll which shows support for Labour now down to 34pc with David Cameron's Tories on 38pc and Ming Campbell's Libs on 20pc.

Julian Glover, who seems to have taken over from Alan Travis as the paper's poll-meister, writes that this result "suggests that the next election may well produce a hung Parliament."

That is something of an understatement. Not only would such a result produce a hung Parliament, it would also lead to certain constitutional chaos in that the party that lost the election would still have the largest number of seats in the House of Commons.

To see what I mean, go to the Electoral Calculus site and type in the Guardian's poll predictions. It will give you a result that has Labour on 305 seats, 19 short of a majority, the Tories on 272, and the Lib Dems on 37.

What this means is that the party that would be deemed by public opinion to have "won" the election - the Tories - would not be in a position to form a government even in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

The Labour Party, by contrast, would probably be able to stitch together enough alliances withe minor parties to stay in power, even though it would be clearly seen to have lost the confidence of the British people.

This is pretty unchartered constitutional territory. Only once before, in 1950, has the party which won the most votes (the Tories) not gained the largest number of seats and consequently not formed the Government. But then it was only by a tiny margin and there was no third party to complicate things.

As the Chinese used to say, we live in interesting times....

6 comments:

politaholic said...

In 1950 the Conservatives won most votes and seats. It was in 1951 that Labour won most votes and fewer seats (Labour had 48.8% to the Tories 48%); the samr thing happended in February 1974 but the other way round: the Tories won most votes but fewer seats 37.9% and 296 seats to Labour's 37.1% and 301 seats). Very little in it, of course. As we all know, the same thing happened in the 2000 Presidential election in the US.

SPL said...

Are you sure that Electoral Calculus is correct? In 2005 the LibDems also polled 20% of the popular vote - as the Guardian now predicts - but then won 62 seats. You say they will win 37. I realise change is possible, given the geographic distribution of votes, but surely a loss of 25 seats is too great?

Bob Piper said...

They would be interesting times if we were anywhere near an election... but we're not! So it's just so much chaff for the chattering classes to twitter about. As The Guardian article points out, this is the biggest Tory lead since the fuel crisis... and we all know how much that influenced the General Election result.

Ellee Seymour said...

These are certainly very interesting times. Do you what impact the new boundary changes will have on the policital swing in the next general election? I know it will be swings and roundabouts, but do they favour any particular party?

MatGB said...

SPL, calculus is trying to predict things post boundary change. It's also working on uniform swings, Lib Dems tend to take their seats with swings that break the national avarage. MancWithington for example.

Bob? "chattering classes". They (we) chatter. Although I suspect that a hung Parliament is, currently, the most likely result regardless of our preferences; it's certainly my preference, I don't really trust any of the leaders to get it completely right, and I don't see Brown being much better than Blair, if at all, on the issues thee and me agree on.

Anthony Wells said...

Electoral Calculus doesn't use a uniform swing - it uses a variation on a proportional swing (parties whose vote is down are reduced proportionally and reallocated to parties whose vote is rising). Hence the reason any reduction in the Lib Dem vote leads to such dramatic loss of seats - on a uniform swing the Lib Dem would have far more seats.