Before I delve in though here's a quick rundown of how the UK elections work for anyone not familiar with it. On May 7th those registered to vote in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will select who they want to represent them in Westminster. The country is split up into 650 constituencies (seats) with parties putting forward candidates in one or more. The big two parties are David Camerons' Conservatives and Ed Milibands' Labour who hold over 250 seats each. The remaining main parties are the Scottish National Party (SNP), UK Independence Party (UKIP), Liberal Democrats and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). In order to form a majority government one party must gain 326 or more seats in the House of Commons. In the event that this is not possible (a hung parliament) a pact consisting of two or more parties may be formed in order to give the coalition a total of 326 seats or more, as is the current case with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.
So that brings us to the election tomorrow. The opinion polls are indicating a hung parliament again this year. I've analysed some of the more conservative polls and my results are in Tables 1 and 2 at the end of this post. I've concluded from the data that the existing coalition is likely to lose 52 seats (21 Conservative and 31 Liberal Democrat). Of those 52, 41 are likely to go to Labour. However, Labour are forecast to lose very heavily in Scotland with 38 of their seats going to the SNP. Along with the 1 Conservative and 9 Liberal Democrats seats forecast to go to Nicola Sturgeons party that puts the SNP in a very strong position with a total of 54 out of Scotlands possible 59. Even with that Labour would come out of 2015 with a gain of 3 seats overall in the house. For the remaining parties there is likely to be little movement. Plaid, Greens and UKIP are all likely to hold onto their seats.
There are three seats in Northern Ireland that are competitive, namely Fermanagh and South Tyrone; East Belfast and South Belfast. While forecasts predict the South Belfast is likely to remain with the SDLP the 2011 election results showed that the DUP do have a strong enough representation to snatch it if the SDLP cannot sufficiently mobilise its support. The East Belfast seat which is currently being held by the Alliance party is very likely to swing back to the DUP. The final seat in Fermanagh and South Tyrone is very much dependent on turn out with only four votes separating the parties last time, however, current polls predict that it will remain with Sinn Fein. Based on this the DUP vote will increase to 9 while Sinn Fein, SDLP and an Independent will hold onto their 5, 3 and 1 seat respectively.
So, after all that how does that leave Westminster when the dust settles on May 8th? Well, of the 326 seats required for an overall majority the Conservatives will likely be closest with 285. That's still 41 short and so the negotiations can begin. The first choice for Cameron will be another coalition with Clegg, however, with the Liberal Democrats likely to lose 31 seats they can no longer deliver a majority. The next stop will be to the DUP, however, even then Cameron will be left with only 320 of the 326 seats he needs. Based on pledges made during the last six weeks the remaining parties are unlikely to want to join a Clegg-Cameron coalition.
So what about Labour? Well, this is where things get even more interesting. While Labour will be the smaller of the 'big two' they already have the promised support of the SNP. At the start of the year a pact between the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru was being heavily discussed. Assuming SNP can deliver this, Ed Miliband will only need to convince the DUP to join him in order to put his party over the threshold and into Number 10. In fact, with the support of the SDLP already pledged and Sinn Fein refusing to take their seats it's very possible that Labour could deliver a Labour-SNP-Plaid Cymru-DUP-SDLP-Greens coalition. How stable and maintainable that coalition would be is highly questionable and another election before the natural end of the life of this parliament is likely but this group is a very real possibility.
My one question though is this, with 38 seats moving from Labour to the SNP and only one going from Conservative to the SNP how can Nicola Sturgeon say that she will only go into coalition with Labour? Will she unite with Cameron and form a Conservative - SNP coalition if Alex Salmond is offered the opportunity to be a Scottish Nationalist as Deputy PM using this swing as justification?
In the end a lot of campaign promises can be broken in a hung parliament negotiation but it looks clear to me that the Con-Lib days are over and the voices of the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland just got a lot louder.
Table 1: 2015 Forecast
|Party Name||2010 v 2015||2015 Seats||Majority - Seats|
Table 2: Movement of Seats
|Con -> SNP||Lab -> SNP||LD -> SNP||Con -> Labour||LD -> Labour||LD -> Con|