What will the electoral fruit machine* come up with on May 7th?

This post is reserved for new and infrequent commenters. “Infrequent” is defined as having posted less than five comments in the last month.

On Saturday, we linked to an interview with Nick Harvey, who speculated about what might happen after the election on May 7th. In it, he pondered a possible Lib Dem match-up with Labour, saying that we would be “older, wiser and uglier” and ready on shaft-avoidance mode. He mentioned that a reduced Liberal Democrat representation in the Commons would be no block to forming a coalition government, pointing to our one hundred-odd peers who could be the subject of many ministerial appointments.

Yesterday, Nigel Dodds, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, suggested that Labour MPs are “deeply concerned” about a possible deal with the SNP. He said the nationalists would extract “an enormously high price” from Labour for such a deal, which would jeopardise the cohesion of the United Kingdom. Mr Dodds suggested that “a pan-Unionist pact” could provide a helping hand to Labour in forming a government, with the suggestion that this would involve extra dosh for Northern Ireland.

Labour and Sinn Fein have denied that they have been having talks. Now that would be a strange combination, so perhaps it is indeed off the table.

Then there is the possibility of a Conservative/Unionist alliance, which perhaps is the most natural of all the possible partnerships, particularly given that the Conservative party is still called the “Conservative and Unionist party”.

What coalition might the electoral fruit machine (*to borrow a phrase from our regular commenter, John Tilley) throw up in May? And what might the ramifications of the potential outcomes be?

Might the Queen, like her predecessor Queen Victoria, have to call more than one or two potential Prime Ministers for a chat at Buck House before one sticks in place?

Oh, I nearly forgot. Surely the dear voters will spare the Liberal Democrats the excitement of yet another coalition with the Conservatives, will they not?

Trailer photo by Garry Knight

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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16 Comments

  • Glenn Andrews 11th Feb '15 - 10:37am

    If this election goes the way many of the punters think it could then the Conservative party and Labour party would actually despise UKIP and the SNP respectively even more than they hate us and though neither would admit it prior to an election but they would more likely form a grand coalition than let either of those two any influence…. and it would be a fortunate Lib Dem leader becomes leader of the official opposition to the Conservative /Labour coalition…. not great for the country, but a gift to Tim Farron (probably)….. and it would be fun to watch 550-odd Labservatives try to squeeze on to the government benches.

  • Labour/Lib Dem would be my choice. I’m not keen on another union with the Tories, and less so on a Government propped up by a Nationalist party that’s concerned with only a small percentage of the UK.

    Furthermore, a Coalition of three or more parties strikes me as being far too unstable to work.

  • Sad in many ways but the result means Lib Dems Wont be in Government SNP more likely to be and you may be shocked how few seats you actually get. had your day in the Sun an became Tories hope what you did accomplish was worth it.

  • Simon Foster 11th Feb '15 - 12:16pm

    Tez, I believe the Lib Dems will have more than 20 seats and less than 40 at the moment, with many polls and commentators going for somewhere around the 30 mark at the moment. From all the qualitative data I’ve seen so far that seems a fair estimate in political science. Anything less than 20 would be a shock, as Lord Ashcroft’s polling indicates that this is not going to happen.

    There are 2 fascinating battles lining up at the moment, and then a third question that arises from them:

    1) Biggest party – Labour versus the Conservatives. The main question on everyone’s lips. And wide, wide open, with plenty of time before polling day.

    2) The hidden fight the media still needs to pick up on: 3rd biggest party. This is a competition between the SNP and the Lib Dems at the moment. It’s particularly volatile, because whilst the SNP look ahead at the moment in the polls capturing up to 40 seats, when local factors are taken into account, such as a sitting MP, things change. The SNP vote is soft, having come over mostly from Labour and the Lib Dems, and could easily go back again in the run up to polling day.

    I can’t comment in too much detail on the Scottish situation, but know that in my own seat of Birmingham Yardley, Labour are 4-6% on a straight opinion poll ask. However, mention my MPs name, John Hemming, and that turns into a 2% for John (source for both figures – Lord Ashcroft’s polling). Add in the mess that the Labour Council have made on bins and recyling in Birmingham over the last year and I believe John will hold his seat. Don’t write off all the Lib Dems yet.

    At the moment http://www.electionforecast.co.uk/ has the SNP on 35 and the Lib Dems on 27. That’s inaccurate, I don’t believe the Lib Dems are only going to get 1 seat in the whole of Cornwall and Devon for a second. It does suggest the SNP has the edge at the moment. Key battlegrounds to watch will be Gordon and Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspe – both Lib Dem/SNP fights.

    I personally think that the SNP may end up with more seats. If the Lib Dems somehow end up with more seats than the SNP, then this will be a major victory for the Lib Dems in difficult circumstances, and a success for the careful targetting of resources the Lib Dems have been know for since the mid-1990s.

    3) What coalition possibilities will add up?

    The Greens cannot win more than 3 seats, as they publicly admit they are only targeting 3 seats to win, and look like they will end up with 1-2 of those. The First Past the Post system will also work against UKIP, and I cannot see them winning more than 5 seats. No other party will win seats in signficant numbers, although the 2-3 SDLP MPs take the Labour whip and can be helpful if things get tight for Labour.

    With the most likely outcome a hung Parliament, the key players will be the SNP and the Lib Dems, and possibly the Democratic Unionists if the Conservatives just miss a majority, the latter having 8-10 seats which could be crucial.

    The SNP have ruled out any coalition with the Conservatives, and prefer a confidence and supply arrangement with Labour, a likely price for budget stability and support in no confidence votes . If Labour are in a minority situation with the SNP in confidence and supply, I cannot see the Lib Dems going into coalition with them if their numbers are also needed.

    The scenarios to me then are as follows:

    1) Conservative majority (unlikely, polls indicate hung Parliament).
    2) Conservative/DUP coalition (remember 1995 and John Major with no overall majority, and the Ulster Unionists indicating they would not vote him out, and various financial deals being done behind the scenes to cement this). Likely if the Conservatives just miss a majority by a couple of seats.
    3) Another Conserative/Lib Dem coalition (unlikely IMHO, I’m not sure the activists have the stomach for it).
    4) Conservative minority Government.
    5) Labour minority Government (and call people’s bluff and be prepared to have a 2nd General Election a la 1974, after calling people out in a vote of no confidence, and then failing to form a new Government?)
    6) Labour minority Government supported by SNP confidence and supply.
    7) Labour/Lib Dem coalition (unlikely, I think Lib Dems activists are hungry for a period in opposition to rebuild).
    8) Labour majority Government (unlikely, polls indicate hung Parliament).

    My guess is 5 or 6 at the moment. However, this final statement is pure speculation, as so much could change before polling day.

    Simon Foster.
    ( Head of Politics at a large FE College in Birmingham, and a former Vice President of the Lib Dems Agents and Organiser Association).

  • Mark Littlewood 11th Feb '15 - 12:36pm

    It’s hard to imagine what the LibDems would ask for in the event of a hung Parliament now. Electoral reform is off the agenda for a couple of decades now after the total fiasco of YES2AV. European policy is not going to be set by the LDs in any meaningful way. The party’s position on deficit reduction and taxation is already a “split the difference” policy.

    I suspect there’s a fair chance that the party will go into coalition again, but if so, it will probably be as an “adjunct” not as a game changer in setting government policy and strategy. This might entail, for example, Norman Lamb being a junior minister with special responsibility for mental health issues. And this may well be a good thing.

    But in terms of the overarching approach, strategy and direction of the next government, it is very hard to see how or why the LibDems will be relevant at all.

  • Enjoyed reading Simon Foster’s contribution. Great insight.

  • At this stage my sense is that it is premature — and perhaps self-defeating — to speculate.

    The press are doing a good job of telling us to expect fewer MPs… but exploring that seems to set us up to fail.

    We can’t think too much about coalition without making it harder for our MPs to make sensible decisions if/when the time comes.

    It might sound a bit naive to say “Prepare for victory”, but we do need to be positive. There seem to be rumours suggesting the Tories,if they are in government, will push for a referrendum on EU membership early in 2016. That is massively important for the future of the UK: at the very least it seems wise to treat campaigning in this election as a dress rehearsal for campaigning in that. In terms of this election that means that, if we do well,that is great, and if not, we have in any case, got in some practice for the referrendum.

  • Rev Simon Wilson 11th Feb '15 - 8:52pm

    One factor relating to another Lib Dem /Con coalition is that all the low hanging fruit has already been picked.

  • Agree mostly with Simon Foster … but: “7) Labour/Lib Dem coalition (unlikely, I think Lib Dems activists are hungry for a period in opposition to rebuild).” How much attention will our Westminster leadership pay to our activists’ hunger on May 8th? Personally I’d have thought Labour tribalism was a more likely obstacle to a Lab/LD coalition. Depending on the arithmetic, I’d say a Labour/Lib Dem coalition was possible, perhaps with SNP support. If Labour duck out because they don’t like us, and allow some sort of continued Tory government, that will cement their expected hammering in Scotland.

    Mark Littlewood
    Don’t agree that electoral reform is off the agenda – STV for local elections would be worth fighting for, and would be a great step forwards.

    UKIP may get four times as many votes as the SNP, but I’ve seen no suggestion that they’ll get more than a handful of setas (5/6). I shall weep for Nigel Farage … but that would highlight the uselessness of FPTP quite spectacularly.

  • @ Mark Littlewood
    “Electoral reform is off the agenda for a couple of decades now after the total fiasco of YES2AV. ”
    Yes Mark, there were a handful of Liberal Democrats who backed the No2AV campaign, surprising as that may seem.

    It won’t be very helpful if the LibDems are seen as being hostile to electoral reform during your media appearances on their behalf in the run-up to May7. Perhaps you find Stanley Fink’s “everyone does tax avoidance at some level” perspective more appealing.

  • The question which isn’t being asked is: how do we ‘rig’ the 2015 electoral fruit machine in our favour?

    Given the way things have been going in terms of the polls and forecasts, it would seem that approaching the election(s) (remember we have elections, across all tiers of government, from Parish councils through to Westminster) as wholly independent parties is a recipe for getting a really bad result, namely: massively reduced majorities and potentially a minority government composed of minorities. Those who think that there will be a swift second election are overlooking the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, which dramatically reduced No. 10’s and Parliament’s ability to call an election; a early election can only be held if more than 2/3 of members vote in favour.

    To me it is becoming more and more obvious that the LibDems probably need to form Coalition 2.0 BEFORE the election campaign starts and work with their partner to not both present candidates where there is a risk of the vote being split. The trouble is that all parties are so intent on ‘winning’ that they most likely won’t see the accident until it’s too late…

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