GE2015 minus 15: all change?

Posted: 22 April 2015 in general election 2015, politics
Tags: , ,

The closer we get to the election, the more it looks like Ed Miliband will be our next Prime Minister. In the same way as after the 2010 election, the numbers simply didn’t add up for Labour to stay in power, even with the Libe Dems supporting them, the maths seems against David Cameron remaining in Downing Street for more than a day or so after 7th May.

At its simplest, polls are suggesting that the Tories and Labour will likely get just under 300 seats each, around the 280 mark. The Lib Dems are forecast to get around 25-30 seats, but any increase is likely to be at the expense of Tories, not Labour. So Tory-LD combination gets them, say, 305-ish. Another 9 from the DUP gets them up to say, 315-ish. Labour, meanwhile, with their 280 together with the SNP’s likely 45 to 50 gets them to 325.

There are 350 seats, one of which is The Speaker’s, so 326 is the winning post, right? Nope, Sinn Fein MPs don’t take their seats, so the effective winning post is 323. You may recall that after the last election, the right-leaning papers were full of crap about Gordon Brown squatting in Downing Street. In fact he was doing nothing but his constitutional duty, remaining as Prime Minister until he was of the opinion that he could no longer control a majority in the House of Commons. What’s the betting that those same newspapers won’t do the whole “squatting in Downing Street” this time, but will instead proclaim that Cameron is doing his constitutional duty by remaining in place?

There’s been some confusion as to at what point Ed Miliband gets the opportunity to become PM. I’m not sure why; constitutional convention is fairly clear on the subject. If Cameron can’t maintain a majority, he’s obliged under that same consttutional duty to inform the Crown of it and recommend she ask Ed Miliband to form a government. There’s a small new quirk built in by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which gives parties a short – but limited – time to pull together a majority. But in essence, it’s the same thing: if Cameron can’t do it, he’s obliged to recommend Miliband. It’s particularly amusing to me, given the obvious deep and personal dislike between the two men.

Even if it wasn’t blatant in their confrontations over the past four and a half years during Prime Minister’s Questions, too many off-the-record briefings have let the numerous cats out of their bags. Miliband seems to genuinely despise Cameron’s entire governmental culture, while Cameron doesn’t seem to have gotten over an equally genuine shock and revulsion of Ed becoming Labour Party leader, rather than his brother David.

Thing is, no matter what his ministers have done (has a law minister ever been more comprehensively and regularly slapped by Judges than Grayling?), no matter how badly his ministers have mismanaged, no matter how just plain nasty his government’s policies have been, I don’t believe for one second that David Cameron thinks he can remain in office one moment beyond that the constitution allows. If there’s any doubt, he’ll walk. In fact, any doubt at all, he’ll run.

Unlike Blair, who freely admitted that he’d never been a House of Commons man, Cameron strangely always has been. Though, as a general rule, he was always better at asking questions in opposition than he has been at facing them in government.

For the past two years, I’ve been expecting the Tories to slowly but surely claw back one percentage point at a time, and get to the election on around 36-38%; that would have given the Tories and Lib Dems a majority; smaller than the one they’ve had for the past five years but just about doable.

I’m no longer convinced of that; I’m slowly coming to two conclusions:

(1) Ed Miliband is likely to be the next prime minister in a minority Labour government that’s going to have problems from, say, day 30. I’ll give them that long but they’re going to have to fight for every vote in the house, every concession from the opposition, every day after that. With the Fixed-term Parliaments Act keeping someone in power unless one of two things happen, it’s going to be very very interesting for politics junkies like me. 

As for what those two things are, well, I’ll write about them tomorrow.

(2) The second conclusion is a variation of the old saw about oppositions not winning elections; governments lose them. This time around there won’t be any winners. The government will be formed out of the parties that merely lost less badly.

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Comments
  1. Gordon Brown did was he was supposed to do in 2010. In fact you could argue that he contributed to stable government by allowing the LibDems and Conservatives to negotiate next door in the Cabinet Office and keeping the speculation under a degree of control.

    Let’s remember that uncertainty is the political commentator’s bread and butter. Hours of special programmes and 3D diagrams of the House of Commons. The political nerd world cup.

    The national polls dont really give us an idea of the local contests. As much as the LibDems, Greens and UKIP talk up proportional voting we still dont have polling that reflects local difusion. The SNP hardly make a sizable dent nationally but they could get 40+ or maybe 50 seats. The LibDems have a national presence but it doesn’t reflect the contests where MPs with personal support come through. A seat like Berwick, held since 1973 by Sir Alan Beith, is not a LibDem seat but a Beith seat and he is retiring Hence it will flow back to the Conservatives. Similarly the seat of Redcar became Libdem by mistake. The closure of the local steel works was blamed (partly) on a lacklustre Government support and hence the Labour vote sat on it’s hands. There is a good chance it will go back to Labour.

    Back in 1987 Newcastle Central was held by Piers Merchant MP. A Conservative. Against the national swing a local campaign elected Jim Cousins, a popular local Labour councillor, and the seat has remained Labour since. The campaign was practically run by local trade unions. Not so much the union barons more the shop stewards and local campaigners. These contests are missed by the Westminster village, the southern based media and the national polls.

    Nick Clegg believes that voters will take the high principled stand that the LibDems stood up for the country. This wont wash because the LibDems are often a tactical vote in the south to keep out the Tories and a tactical vote in the north to keep out Labour. The LibDem’s may have just worked with Labour but unfortunately the maths gave them ‘the nasty party’. With some MPs bolstered by student support in 2010 they may find students tactically voting against LibDem MPs.

    Polls also have that wonderful 3% error factor. I suspect the pollsters are as confused as everyone else. I think the LibDems are actually polling high. I think that UKIP are polling low. I think that London seems more Labour than the south as a whole.

    From this I agree the most likely Government is a minority Labour Government. I have thought this for several months. I think the SNP is in a worse position than right wing commentators believe because if they vote against Labour at Westminster they face a backlash back in Scotland in the 2016 Scottish Parliament Election. I think Milliband is in a strong position than people think. UKIP will win some seats but it wont be a breakthrough moment and Nick Clegg will lose his seat.

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