Monday 4 May 2015

Thoughts on what could happen after the UK General Election by Jay Blanc

There's less than a week to go, and because in general last-minute movement of polling is as misleading just as often as it is accurate, this will be my final run of the model. And once more, the result is that of a statistical tie between the two main parties.

However the outcome remains predominantly tilted in one direction, and means I can provide a relatively simple summary of the likely election results. Starting from least-predominant to most predominant.

A Majority Government is Elected.

While it can't be entirely ruled out, any party receiving enough seats to be in the majority of the House of Commons is only a tiny fraction of simulated outcomes. While the Conservatives have a slightly better chance of this than Labour, but both are marginal and at the very edges of probability. Should a Majority Government actually be elected, then either the polls were entirely off-track, or the national figure is correct but key marginals or regions swing to one party of the other while votes stack up elsewhere.

Labour Led Coalition.

With formal coalition between the SNP and Labour apparently ruled out for political reasons, the only really viable partners are the Liberal Democrats with potential support from other minor parties. However, with the Liberal Democrats substantially squeezed out of contention, once again such a coalition would require the polls to be wrong, or edge case allocation of the national vote share that benefitted Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Conservative Led Coalition.

The Conservatives have a barely better chance here. Already hard pressed to make up the numbers of a coalition, they will have political problems forming a coalition with a Liberal Democrat party wary of returning to one. While it's possible the DUP could support a coalition with the Conservatives, they are an anti-austerity party, and political rivals with reason to maintain distance from the Conservative party due to Northern Ireland politics.

Further more the Conservatives can not look to UKIP to usher them into power. Even if you discount the political complexity of a coalition containing both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats and the DUP, UKIP do not pick up any seats in the model in any of the simulation runs. And while it's probably being pessimistic towards UKIP due to lack of reliable information about where UKIP's seat concentration lies, that seat concentration if it grants UKIP any seats is likely to come from Conservative seats.

Conservative Minority

A Conservative Minority exists within the 14% undefined outcome produced from the simulations. It's quite possible that a situation will occur where the Conservatives will be able to legitimately form a minority. However, it's clear that they are then unlikely to be able to avoid a no-confidence motion at the first opportunity to pass one.

Fresh Elections Later This Year

Should a minority government be formed that is not strong enough to prevent it, a no-confidence motion could force fresh elections. The earliest this could be expected some time later this year. The timing comes from the minimum time till the next Opposition day in a newly formed parliament, which would be the first opportunity for opposition parties to present a motion of no-confidence, and would occur sometime mid June. Two weeks would pass where parliament has the opportunity to pass a confidence motion in a government that may or may not be the existing one. If no such motion is passed, then Parliament is dissolved and a date for fresh elections will be set.

Labour Minority

By far the most predominant outcome is that of a Labour Minority government that is sustained by consent of the SNP. It is unclear how the arrangement will work, and with the changes made by the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the original meaning of a 'Supply and Confidence' arrangement no longer applies. It's outside of scope to predict how this would work, and it may well eventually lead to fresh elections anyway if such consent breaks down.

Final Summary

I expect that things may well still be unclear on Friday morning next week, with a period of negotiation required to produce a government, and the distinct possibility of fresh elections either this year or mid-term. I will next report after the election, to discuss how well polling reflected the election outcome.

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