Labour short of majority?

Greetings from sunny Exeter!

This morning’s check of UK Polling Report, my first in a few days, turned up this note in the prediction part of the page: “Hung parliament, Labour short by 39.”

The projection has been for a “hung” (please, “representative” or “balanced”) parliament for quite some time, but with the Tories ahead in seats. The current projection has Labour on 287 seats to Conservatives’ 262, and LibDem 70. This despite the Conservatives still being ahead by five points in the polling aggregate, albeit with only 35% of the vote. The spike in LibDem support in the Voting Intention graph, to 24%, is impressive!

The projection is based on a uniform swing, which of course there will not be. Even with that caveat, the projection sure is an eye-opener.

The three-way leaders’ debate last Thursday, the first-ever debate in a UK campaign, really seems to have shaken things up, at least for now. The LibDem leader broke through the two-party din, and by all accounts (including my own at the time) “won” the contest. Various polls since have put the LibDems in second place, and at least one has the perennial third-place force in the lead.

Two more debates the next two Thursdays, and then the voting. Good time to be in the UK!

14 thoughts on “Labour short of majority?

  1. If Labour comes 3rd in terms of percentage, yet ends up with the most seats, what would happen if the LDs prop them up? Surely a constitutional crisis.

  2. There was one poll that reported the LibDems at 32%, Tories at 31% and Labour at 28%. Plug those into the BBC’s votes-to-seats calculator and you end up with 285 seats for Labour, 215 for the Tories and 121 for the LibDems. Obviously the calculator isn’t perfect, but even the chance of an inverse votes-to-seats relationship among the large parties is pretty ridiculous!

  3. That will be interesting as the most.
    Today’s published Guardian/ICM poll shows LibDems with 30% (10 more points than one month ago), Conservative first with 33% (-3) and Labour with 28% (-4). Yet, Labours would led in terms of seats (275), followed by Tories (245), and LibDems (99).
    Of course, the most concerned is David Cameron, who stated that a hung parliament might result in a Labour government. “”We have to explain that actually if you get that, you are not going to get the decisive action and the change we need,” said according to Guardian.
    This extended volcanic stain over UK seems harder to be solved.

  4. I am virtually ignorant of British constitutional law. I gather that, in the event of hung Parliament, tradition would have the Queen appoint the plurality winner, whether a coalition can be formed or not. (1) Is that correct? (2) Is tradition and/or current speculation about what Her Majesty can do and/or might do any different with regard to a wrong-winner election? Is it even possible that she could bargain with the three main party leaders — for example, to get a referendum on PR in exchange for naming one of them PM?

  5. @Bob

    See the governor of Tasmania’s letter for an excellent summary of what a Westminster head of state should do when facing a hung parliament. Note, winning a plurality of seats does not give a party any special claim on ministerial leather ( the sort of phrase one is often forced to use when describing British politics) despite the overwhelming tendency of Westminster plurality parties to claim it does.

  6. Today’s UK Polling Report shows the uniform-swing projection as Labour short by 59, with 267 seats, Tories on 255, LibDem at 97. That’s despite Labour being third in votes–now not just in a poll or two, but in the aggregate. They are at 27%, LibDem 29%, and the Conservatives 33%.

    Second TV leaders’ debate tonight.

    As for “constitutional law” (such as it is in the UK), the Queen’s incumbent “adviser” remains PM till parliament tosses him our or he steps down.

  7. @MSS

    Um, no. The Queen’s chief adviser remains in office but (1) their advice is no longer binding and (2) the head of state can remove them if they cannot reasonably assure a majority in the house.

  8. Alan, this disagreement proves the point made by the person I was paraphrasing in my comment! This person is an expert in such matters, and he said that different experts will tell you different things. The joys of an unwritten constitution!

    The bottom line, in this expert’s view, was that Brown would have an absolute right to present himself to parliament. Of course, it is also true that the Queen could fire him, but his actions would have to be terribly egregious–in constitutional-crisis territory–for that to happen!

  9. It may just be a matter of experience and how frequently you encounter hung parliaments. I do not know off hand if they are more common here than in the UK and it may be that the Queen would be less inclined to intervene than a Queen’s representative would be. The governor of Tasmania was quite relaxed about refusing advice and explicitly said that the outgoing premier was still entitled to tender advice but that it was no longer binding because the premier did not have a majority in the house. No-one has contested or criticised the governor’s decision in any way, although the Liberal opposition have heavily criticised the new Labor-Green coalition.

    If you asked experts from Australia and New Zealand, where this has happened a number of times in recent memory at the state level, they would all answer that the head of state is bound only by the advice of a premier with a parliamentary majority. That cannot be a South Pacific eccentricity because the draft UK cabinet manual repeats the NZ cabinet manual on the subject almost word for word.

    To a certain extent it is an academic discussion because the UK parliament meets quite quickly after a general election so the window for skullduggery is fairly narrow.

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