Gaming out the UK elections

As of today, with less than a week to go, there is no likely coalition capable of achieving a majority in the commons. On the other hand, no one seems to note that Sinn Fein is an abstentionist party and its MPs do not take their seats. Normally this doesn’t matter, but when we’re dealing with razor-thin margins, the fact that (probably) 5 MPs won’t be voting matters.

323 forms a working majority in the House of Commons.

It is vanishingly unlikely that the SNP and Tories, the only two-party combination that can reach 323, will cooperate.

Procedure is also important. Just as in Israel, the Queen gives the mandate with some discretion. It is not necessarily the person with the most MPs.

If today’s polling holds, the best the Tories can do is to keep the LibDems and appeal to the DUP.  But that’s only 313 votes. It’s possible that this combination will reach 323 due to polling errors.

Labour is in a better position. Ed Miliband has stated that he would not have SNP in government, but Labour+SNP is 321 at present (and I think some of the minor parties would affirm without much, if any, prodding). All SNP has to do is abstain on the Queen’s speech and motions of no confidence, and Ed Miliband is probably prime minister. Lib/Lab + SNP abstention is a more sure thing.

Labour ought to deeply probe the Scottish electorate and see what happens if the parliament is truly hung. Does Labour win some of the Scottish seats back in the follow on election? It will be interesting to see on a Scale of Canada to Israel how adapted UK politics is to coalition agreements. LibDems could ask a high price indeed despite their lower numbers.

If SNP won’t support anyone who doesn’t give in to their demands, and another election is held, I think, but don’t know, that Labour has the upper hand and will indeed get some of those seats back as people tire of the SNP’s repeated failures to deliver. But again, no one except both the Conservatives and Labour together, can form a government without at least an SNP abstention.

The LibDems wanted a referendum on a different voting system last time, a referendum that failed. With a seemingly more permanently hung parliament, does proportional representation get another shot? UKIP voters will think so, with their polling in the 10s and their likely seats in the 0-2 range.

Based on this polling, I think the British are about to being Ed Miliband to power either before or after another election.

Personally, I think this is a huge mistake. I would never be a Tory, but under Cameron on the big issues, the UK has been well served. Further integration in Europe, losing the pound, Scottish independence, and losing Trident would set the UK, or what’s left of it, into permanent third-rate power status and the results of the Napoleonic Wars, WWI, and WWII would, in effect, be reversed. This might help with certain wage and inequality issues, but I don’t think even the social democrats among the English are actually ready to have their world be so subordinated to Germany and France.

European integration’s primary raison d’être is to prevent future European wars, wars that the British did not start or cause but were affected by. If that weren’t the case, it would be hard to justify for the mainland countries, much less the British, after the performance during the economic crisis.

So, here are the possible results, barring a polling failure:

(1) Labour government w/ or w/o Libs on SNP abstentions. If SNP sees new elections as a reverse and can get some advertisable concession, maybe on taxes or Trident, without being in government, this is more likely.

(2) New election – seems the most likely

(3) Unity government – perhaps a Shamir/Peres type agreement, or something where the party with the most seats gets the premiership but with a very compromised agenda, perhaps only on Scotland and a few other issues with everything else being vote-by-vote coalitions.

Either way, I very much doubt that the next British election is May 2020.