Where Angles Fear to Tread

May 10, 2010

Discussions Continue

Filed under: Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 12:52 pm

Cameron and Clegg (plus advisors, fellow MPS, and ‘hangers-on’) have been negotiating most of Thursday night, and all weekend.  I fully expected there to be an announcement regarding agreement on Sunday evening in time for the morning papers, and the ‘breakfast’ news shows. However, it appears that this is not to be, and that we will have to wait a while longer to know who our Prime Minister is.

In the last blog post, I noted potential reasons for the LibDems to join in coalition with the Conservatives. However, following an election campaign with more than a few dirty tricks by all parties (not least the LibDems south-west campaign – ‘Labour can’t win here’), I’ve decided to review the reasons for the Lib Dems not to join Labour in a Lid/Lab coalition.

Minority Coalition Government

Even together, Lib/Lab have only got 315 seats (short of the 326 required). Even if we assume that Sinn-Fein don’t take their 5 seats which they have never done the required total is 323. Still 8 short.

Rely on the Nationalists

The three larger nationalist parties – Scottish National (SNP – 6 seats), Plaid Cymru (PC – 3 seats) and Democratic Unionists (DUP – 8 seats) could join a Lib/Lab government to ensure a working majority. However, this would likely mean a requirement for substantial ‘horse-trading’ due to the different requirements / wishes of each of the parties.  As such, deals in which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland avoid the ‘savage’ cuts required to bring the economy back on track would be devisive and could split the union. If England were to take most of the cuts – where the majority of seats are Conservative (55.7%) – despite voting for a Conservative government in England then the Nationalists will not be the only groups asking for independance.

Each seat in England had 47,081 votes (mean), compared with 41,792 (Scotland);  37,437 (N.Ireland); 36,667 (Wales). This is ‘skewed’ slightly by turnout percentage (Eng: 65.5%; Sco: 63.8%; NI: 57.6%; Wal: 64.9%), but this can be adjusted for:

  • England: 71,880 per seat;
  • Scotland: 65,500 per seat;
  • Wales: 56,500 per seat;
  • NI:  65,000 per seat;

If England had had 65,000 voters per seat as per Scotland and NI, each party in England could have obtain 10% more seats  (or each 10% less in Sco/Wal/NI).

(As a further comparison the South West of England has an average of 72,980 registered voters per seat).

To return to the point of this blog, a Lib/Lab coalition has many disadvantages given the current split of the House of Commons, and whilst a rather vocal element of the Liberal Democrat party would prefer to ally with Labour this would likely lead to a very quick election and a massive reduction in LibDem support who could be seen as the party ‘responsible’ for any indecision – whether or not the charge would be fair.

Clegg finds himself (and his party) in a difficult situation which will require brinkmanship and a rational head to overcome. I hope for the country’s sake that he can do so, as an election in the net 6 months would hurt the economic recovery.

Right Angle

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