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Posted by wmmbb in European Politics.

In Britain, they hang the Parliament from time to time. This happened last in 1974, when the Government led by Edward Health could not garner support to form a coalition government and a minority Labor Government of Harold Wilson took power.

It is better than hanging chads, resolved by the Supreme Court. Despite Gordon Brown’s missteps and general frailling around, the Conservatives should have the inside running after thirteen years. While the polls put them ahead they are attracting only 35% of the support which should be enough to give them an extra 96 seats but not enough to reach the 326 they need to form a majority in their own right. That result was achieved by Labor last time with something over 35% of the popular vote.

Looking at the BBC results of past elections, it seems that a higher vote for the Liberal Democrats is bad news for the Conservatives. As you do I suppose the Conservatives have designed their campaign against the Labor Government, when perhaps they might have been wiser to appreciate the danger that Liberal Democrats posed to them.

There looks to be at least four distinct elections taking place. The election will be decided in England, and probably London. Then there are the other elections on the Celtic fringe and each is different. The contest in Scotland seems to be between the Labor and the Scottish Nationalists, with a deep and lasting antipathy to the Thatcher legacy. In the North of Ireland, the Unionists are divided, with the Paisley Democratic Unionists the dominant group. The traditional Conservative-Unionist coalition may be problematic, and were it to take effect it would give a regional party extraordinary leverage, the first past the post system notwithstanding. Wales is just England with a different accent, and a devolved government assembly financed from Westminster.

Suppose that David Cameron becomes PM, which is the expected outcome, then that result will be achieved with little more that a third of the electorate supporting his party. He argues that the Simple Plurality, First Past the Post electoral system is the best available. Surely, that proposition will have been shown to be demonstrably false, bearing in mind that people in Scotland and Wales have first hand experience of proportional representation.

If the FPTP system produces an hung election, then it might produce trading between the parties to form a government, an outcome that system is supposed to avoid. One suggestion is a grand coalition, but British Labor would be aware of the brand diffusion that the Social Democrats experienced in Germany. Another outcome, and the probable one, is a minority Government that will have to make deals to ensure supply, and foreshadow an early election. It will be difficult to see the Conservatives implementing their party platform, in particular taking measures to reduce the budget deficit.

Sometimes, the punters been what they are, elections create problems. We have to wait until Friday or Saturday to find out what problems the British Electorate has set for the new Conservative Government.

My prediction, based on the premise that UK political system has developed beyond FPTP, and while the Conservatives will form a short term minority government, some of proportional representation or at least preferential system will be essential to political stability in the longer run. British governments will take on the same, but not identical, shape and form of the German governments. The Conservatives will have to position themselves to make alliances, including the Liberal Democrats.


The Independent reports:

Polls throughout the campaign have suggested no party will take a majority of seats, a situation that could make Clegg and his party the kingmakers. They could barter with both the Conservatives and Labour, pushing the issues that are most important to them, such as changing Britain’s electoral system, in exchange for their support.

For a party to secure a majority in the House of Commons they have to obtain 326 seats out of 650. (Of course, I have to remind myself Britain is one of those strange places that does not have compulsory voting, and that presumably the state of the horse race affects turnout.)

The new media, according to Nick Clegg, in it various forms (including flash mobs) is having some effect on the campaign, weakening the pervasive influence on MSM. What effect will have to be assessed after Friday.

Gower’s Weblog has a mathematics related review of FPTP and PR.

At Inside Story, David Hayes provides a comprehensive review of the British Election – it now depends on how many seats the Conservatives win, and then it looks like the Liberal Democrats will be the king makers. If they assume that role, the British electoral system will be changed.

Gary at Public Opinion suggests that:

. . . Cameron’s Conservatives would seek pacts with Unionists in Northern Ireland, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalist Party in order to avoid having to accommodate Lib Dem demands for electoral reform.

Normally, the two party system is a deal between the two largest parties, and if they Conservatives seek these alliances they are engaging with the beneficiaries of PR. Without cutting a deal with the Liberal Democrats, conditional on changing the electoral system, the Conservatives lack party political allies.



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