So discussions are continuing and the press are baying either for a government or for Gordon Brown’s blood. They say “the markets” will take it very badly if we have not got a government by the time they open on Monday.
I would rather we took a few days longer to get a government that may last a few months longer – which is what happens elsewhere. Meanwhile, the press should remember that the Queen’s ministers must continue the government until a new one able to command a majority in the Commons emerges.
As for the markets, they need to seriously chill out a little. Read more…
Time to push the numbers around:
Total seats in Parliament, 650 less non participating: 6 (5 Sinn Fein & the Speaker) Participating Seats 644 Votes required for an effective majority = 644/2 : 322+1 Conservatives Seats announced 305 (BBC 306 figure includes Speaker) plus expected to win in 1 Thirsk by-election Subtotal 306 plus Ulster Cons & Unionists 0 - that was a great idea! plus DUP 8 - here's to the pork barrel Total poss. Conservative Camp 314 - 19 Short Possible Opposition Labour 258 Liberal 57 SDLP 3 Alliance party of NI 1 Sub total 319 (representing 52% of the vote) - 4 short of a majority Scottish Nationalists 6 Plaid Cyrmu 3 Total Nationalist 9 Green 1 Maximum Total non-Tory camp 329
(Check 329+314=643 – this compares to 644 effective votes: the difference is an Independent (anti-Tory link) Unionist who I have not allocated to either Camp)
It comes down to how you measure legitimacy.
Does “winning” with 36% of the vote give you a “better legitimacy” than second and third place with a combined 52% of the vote?
Or does a coalition representing 52% of the popular vote have more legitimacy than any other combination?
How much weight to you give to someone who has come first? If you argue that 36% in a predominantly three way fight is OK, is 27% legitimate in a predominantly four way fight, and 23% in a five way fight? The Scottish Nationalist minority administration in Scotland (a predominantly four-way fight) had ~32% popular support. Of course in Scotland the 68% non-nationalist element could (if they got their act together) vote out the Scottish Nationalist administration – because they have an approximately proportional voting system – so they hold power with the tacit consent of the representatives of the people.
36% of the popular vote giving you 47% of the seats just does not feel legitimate. It could land us in the grease.
So the Nationalists are taking legal action regarding their exclusion from the Television Debates.
It’s the mess of the West Lothian Question and as has been remarked the debates have become the election. I’m not sure there is a “clean” way out.
If you live in Scotland or Wales – which are run by parliaments/assemblies that include the Nationalists – you have seen the debates offering the three “main parties” which will have given you a very skewed view of what is on offer. In Northern Ireland by comparison the three main parties are not standing so the “skew” will have little effect (excepting the possible effect of the Cons link with the Unionists). If we end up with a hung/balanced parliament at Westminster, the balance could be skewed by the impact of these skewed debates on Scottish and Welsh voters.
If the Nationalists do end up holding the “balance” in the Westminster Parliament I would be interested (as someone in an English constituency) in what they propose – I would also like to see their programme subject to examination – and a debate may be the way to do it.
Alternatively I suppose the “debates” could be restricted to England and additional debates arranged; Compo, Foggy and Clegg plus “Braveheart” in Scotland and C, F & C plus “Glendower” in Wales – but I doubt that the Summer Wine Three would agree!
It’s a mess, but the is what happens with partial devolution.
Our constitutional structure is in a pickle and I see that the BBC Trust are to hear an appeal from the Nationalists regarding their exclusion (BBC News website 18 April 2010) from the TV debates.
There are a number of issues around the debates in relation to the current constitutional settlement.
Ironically we could end up with a conservative majority in England, but a non-conservative coalition (or supported minority) government in the United Kingdom determining English policy in relation to Education, Health etc.
It’s a funny old world.