Open thread: 2010 British election

2010-05-06

in Canada, Geek stuff, Politics

So, what do people expect from the ongoing British election? A Tory minority? Some sort of coalition between the Liberal Democrats and another party?

In the longer term, what might the consequences be? In particular, will some sort of proportional representation be implemented in the UK? If so, might Canada ever follow suit?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

. May 6, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Election exit poll: Tories to be 19 short of majority

David Cameron will fall 19 seats short of a Commons majority, according to a joint BBC/Sky/ITV exit poll.

The Conservatives would have 307 MPs, up 97 on 2005, Labour would have 255, down 94, and the Lib Dems 59, down 3. Nationalists and others would have 29.

That means Labour and the Lib Dems together could not have a majority.

There are reports of long queues of people still waiting to vote in some parts of the country after the most closely fought election in decades.

Polls closed across the country at 2200 BST but in Sutton Coldfield a BBC reporter says there are plans to lock voters inside the Mere Green Polling Station because the queues are currently so long. There are also reports of long queues in Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and other cities.

. May 6, 2010 at 10:46 pm

03:31: Our colleagues in the statistical boiler room say that the swing to the Tories from Labour, with 208 seats declared, averages out at 5.9%. That is after taking the redrawn constituency boundaries into account. If that swing holds across the country, it would mean 300 seats for the Tories, 264 for Labour and 58 for the Lib Dems. Still not quite enough for David Cameron to move into Number 10, but within spitting distance of a workable minority government. No very clear pattern still, though.

. May 7, 2010 at 8:23 am

Britain

The British election
In his reach
An extraordinary election seems set to make David Cameron Britain’s next prime minister

May 7th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

DAVID CAMERON, the leader of the Conservative Party, is on course to replace Gordon Brown as Britain’s prime minister. For all the ambiguities of the general-election result that much seems apparent. The third-placed Liberal Democrats had a disappointing night but nevertheless hold the balance of power. Nick Clegg, the party’s leader, said that as the Tories won the most seats and votes they should try to form a government. But exactly what type of government Mr Cameron will front, and how long it will last, is still unclear.

The Tories looked set to end up with something over 300 MPs—more than any other party, but not enough for an overall majority in the House of Commons. Mr Brown’s Labour Party was poised to fall by 90 or so seats to less than 260, a result that will almost certainly bring to an end his premiership and extraordinary political career. It is conceivable that Labour could strike some kind of deal with the Liberal Democrats (who have lost some of the 62 seats they held before) to remain in office. By constitutional principle Mr Brown has the first shot at forming a government and reports from Downing Street suggest that he will try to do so. Yet the national mood is palpably set against him. And even added together, Labour and the Lib Dems would probably fall as far short of the 326 seats needed for a majority as the Tories themselves will do.

Indeed, the biggest shock of the night was the Lib Dems’ disappointing performance. The third party had surged in the polls after the first televised debate among the prime ministerial candidates three weeks ago, when Mr Clegg shone. Their new-found popularity turned out to be chimerical. The party did well where it always does, in its south-western heartland, but made little progress elsewhere.

Milan May 7, 2010 at 8:40 am

It looks like Canadians have some good consulting opportunities ahead of them: “OK, so here’s how a Conservative minority government works in a Westminster parliamentary system.”

Byron Smith May 7, 2010 at 10:46 am

The likelihood of any electoral reform will be decided in the next few days as deals are done between the parties. It depends on how much the Liberal Democrats want to stick to their guns on this one issue. My current prediction is that the Tories will put together some kind of agreement (not a coalition) with the Lib Dems in return for a referendum on electoral reform. But then the actual election will be marred by reams of disinformation and fear-mongering and things will stay the same. Another election within two years max.

. May 7, 2010 at 11:07 am

Low-Hanging Fruit
Posted May 7, 2010

This hung parliament is the first and possibly last chance we have to transform politics. We must seize it.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th May 2010.

So now the real fight begins. If, as seems almost certain, we are to have a hung parliament, the UK’s locked-down politics have suddenly been flung wide open. For the first time in living memory we have a chance to smash our antediluvian system. If we can seize the opportunity a hung parliament offers, to deliver proportional representation and party funding reform, we will change politics in the UK for ever. Now we have the chance to be counted: metaphorically and literally. Our votes need never be wasted again.

But it won’t happen by itself: nothing ever does. We will change this system despite most of the men and women who have just taken seats at Westminster, not because of them. Radical constitutional reform will happen only if we demand it, so loudly and so doggedly that parliament and government, whatever their composition might be, can no longer fend us off.

The fight starts tomorrow, with rallies in London, Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol, Middlesborough, Oxford and possibly a few other cities. It’s being coordinated by the kind of wide-ranging coalition we’ve needed for years, as almost all the major reform campaigns – Power2010, Make Votes Count, Unlock Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, Ekklesia, Compass, Hang ‘em, Vote for a Change and others – have settled their differences and come together. (The only name missing from the list is 38 Degrees, which appears to have decided that its real enemies are other democracy campaigns). Most encouragingly some of the big environment groups – Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the New Economics Foundation – have joined the coalition, knowing that much of what they hope to achieve is impossible under the corrupt old system. Greenpeace and FoE bring mass membership to the campaign, and their presence should encourage other NGOs to join.

. May 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm

“A minority government could survive for a while. The Democratic Unionists are likely to vote with the Tories, though not without demanding goodies for Northern Ireland in return. Moreover, many of the Tories’ policy plans either may not require primary legislation (such as efficiency savings in government) or would win Lib Dem backing anyway (such as their schools reform package). And rebellions from Mr Cameron’s own MPs will be few and far between in his early months in office, as many of the things he will be doing (such as cutting public spending) will meet with their approval.

Hung parliaments do not tend to last long, however; the previous one, in 1974, survived for just a few months. This time too another general election soon, to produce a government with a majority of its own, is a real possibility.

What, then, of electoral reform? If that second election transpires, it looks increasingly likely to be held under the same first-past-the-post voting system that Westminster has always known. Certainly, the Lib Dems are in a weak position to demand a more proportional electoral model from Mr Cameron after this result. An election that seemed to promise nothing less than the remaking of British politics may end up being much less transformational than that. For all the talk of this being the era of change, a new prime minister appears to be about as much change as Britons really want. Almost certainly, this election has given them that.”

Sarah May 7, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Alas, my bet is that we’ll see either a Tory minority government with some Lib Dem support vote by vote, or a Tory-Lib Dem alliance, and that we won’t get electoral reform. Most likely, I don’t think we’ll even see a referendum on electoral reform, because that would be anathema for many in the Conservative party.

My reasoning is thus: the Tories have 306 seats and will probably gain one more when the final constituency votes, so they only need 19/20 more votes for a majority. They can probably rely on the 8 DUP members, so Tory 307 + 8 DUP gets them to 315. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could buy off 9 Lib Dems and/or Labour MPs with promises of minor government jobs. Or they might do some kind of deal with Nick Clegg & make the deal based on policy.

Labour have 258 seats, so even with the Lib Dems 57 they wouldn’t pass a Queen’s Speech. They could get to 326, a majority of one, if they allied with lots of Nationalists (the SNP 9 & either Plaid Cmyru or the SDLP both of whom have 3) but that would cause outrage amongst the Tory press and quite likely a constitutional crisis over the . Labour might offer the Lib Dems a referendum on voting reform, but I don’t think they can credibly claim that they’d be able to form a government – although only Nick Clegg and the nationalist party leaders will know if I’m right about that. Moreover, I think they would lose a referendum on voting reform if it was backed by the two parties who lost seats in England and by the nationalists, against what seems to be the winning party in England.

Importantly, the Tories also have the greatest support from the media and by far the largest war chest. They’ve been strongly backed by the Times, Sun and Daily Mail, & supported by the Financial Times. They’re funded by Lord Ashcroft, who has poured money into the marginal seats, and during the campaign Tory fundraising has outstripped labour and massively outstripped the Lib Dems. They also have a bunch of other wealthy supporters & members, including the new MP Zach Goldsmith. So if Nick Clegg refused to support the Tories or Labour and one or other lost a confidence vote then the Conservatives are best placed to go into another election.

I don’t envy Nick Clegg’s position at all, and I wish I was a fly on the wall in Alex Salmond’s (Scottish Nationalist Party leader) office.

Byron Smith May 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Yes, I’m with you Sarah. I voted Lib Dem in the hope that it might lead to reform, but their relatively poor showing has probably sunk that possibility. Worst case is that it leads to a half-hearted effort (such as the Tory idea of simply cutting MP numbers by 10% and redrawing boundaries) and then it is considered “done” for another generation.

Adrian Mohareb May 8, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I agree with the previous commenters that it’s hard to imagine electoral reform (at least, without strong popular pressure) in the UK right now.

From a strategic standpoint, I can’t see the Tories wanting to do electoral reform; they simply don’t have enough voters on their side of the political spectrum. No different from Canada – Conservative parties here (with the exception of Alberta and maybe BC) are probably never to get a majority of votes, so it’s not in their interest to support proportional representation. The only hope for change is that popular support for change is so overwhelming that they really have no choice.

Byron Smith May 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I agree that the Tories have little incentive for electoral reform.

Nonetheless, there is a rapidly growing movement for electoral reform launched about 48 hours ago under the banner of Take Back Parliament, which has brought together a coalition of eighteen different organisations of various kinds – reform, Christian and environmental. I guess we’ll see how much momentum they generate, though an initial protest march was received some live TV coverage. More are being planned.

Sarah May 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm

In another 2o years things might change for the UK Conservatives because by then the boomers will be dead & their voters are on average a good deal older than those of the other parties. It’s not clear that would have an impact on the geographical concentration of Tory supports & the extent to which they are advantaged or disadvantaged by FPTP, but it might mean that the Tory membership wouldn’t be quite so old-fashioned. Part of what I find interesting about the Tories is that they are often driven by instincts even when they conflict with self-interest (e.g. self-interest says back Scottish independence because they’ll have a permanent majority in the rest of the country, but their instincts are unionist), & I suspect their opposition to PR is just as much about instinct as self-interest.

Tristan May 11, 2010 at 8:33 am

The bidding war here is very interesting – especially if it produces a referendum on PR. If it were to go through, it would raise the status of PR within parliamentary systems, and reduce the strength of first-past-the-post hacks in Canada.

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