Voters in the United Kingdom will be voting tomorrow (Thursday 7 May) to elect a new House of Commons – expected to be the second hung parliament in a row.
The first-past-the-post system used for the House of Commons, which in the past has been seen as providing stability and majority government, looks like it is failing to do that, but moreso makes it very hard to predict the result, since votes for minor parties (or even major parties) won’t translate neatly into seats.
The third major party in the UK, the Liberal Democrats, are expected to lose a large chunk of their seats. The party’s support dropped quickly after they formed a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, and has never recovered. The party won’t be wiped out, and there’s evidence that their individual MPs do better than the party’s support level would suggest, and in some places they should still benefit from tactical voting.
In the past, Labour has relied on winning a dominant share of the seats in Scotland as a path to a majority in the Commons, with the Liberal Democrats winning the second-largest number.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party has won a large number of seats in the Scottish Parliament ever since it was first elected, and formed government in 2007 and won an unprecedented majority under the proportional representation system in 2011. However they have traditionally done much more poorly in UK elections. Since the defeat of the independence referendum last year, support for the SNP has shot up, and it looks likely that they will win most seats in Scotland. This change has put the prospect of a Labour majority out of reach, and will likely make the SNP the kingmakers in the new Parliament.
The smaller UK-wide parties have also been doing well. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) – a right-wing party opposed to immigration and the European Union, has shot up in the polls and won two by-elections triggered by Conservative MPs defecting to their party. The Green Party have been around for decades, but have been revitalised in the last few years, with a surge in membership and many former Liberal Democrats switching to them.
Both parties, however, are expected to suffer from their votes being distributed across the country, and are likely to win a very small number of seats.
In 2010, the hung parliament produced a logical outcome of Conservative and Liberal Democrat forming a neat coalition that commanded a solid majority of the Parliament. The outcome this time looks much more messy, with either side likely to fall just short of a majority, and relying on smaller parties to get legislation through. This could include the left-wing Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, or the various Northern Irish parties, nationalist and unionist.
The Guardian poll projection currently has Labour and the SNP four seats short of a majority, although it’s likely to be less when you exclude the Speaker and the Sinn Fein MPs who don’t take their seats. They would, however, have a majority if they included the other left-wing MPs from the Greens, Plaid Cymru and Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), but it would be very fragile and could fail.
I expect results to start flowing out late morning on Friday. I’ll have a post up for results discussion, but I might be limited in my availability to post results as they come in. You’re welcome to join me here.