A Coalition in 2015 – Which One Though?
For the first time in many years, we have experienced a coalition in Britain. It depends on where you sit in the political spectrum as to whether you think it is successful or not, but it has certainly created a new dynamic in British politics. However, as this Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition dies out, ending its days in an all-out election battle, we look towards the future and the possibilities for what might happen in the days from 8th May 2015 forwards.
In doing so, we’ll work on a model of different possible make-ups of Parliament based on the evidence we have so far, which is:
- The Liberal Democrat vote has been decimated, one poll saying 42% of their voters have gone to Labour, 14% to the Tories, 10% to UKIP and 3% to the Greens.
- Labour are riding over the Conservatives in the polls.
- UKIP are gaining strength, 31% of the party’s votes coming from former Tory voters, but 22% from other parties and 19% who did not vote in 2010, as shown below.
UKIP is the wild-card, the one with the most variability and uncertainly in voting patterns. Given the First Past the Post system, it would be extremely difficult to predict as shown below:
This models a scenario where there are 3 strong parties (Lab, Con, UKIP), but with another smaller national party (Lib Dems) plus regional parties. It indicates the share of the popular vote that is needed to gain a given number of seats – at least this model works for UKIP, at lower percentages the Tories and Labour can hang onto more seats as they have their impenetrable heartlands.
The argument of the “legacy” parties is that UKIP will get nowhere near the share of the popular vote to even get onto the graph. However, there are indicators that UKIP can do it:
- The massive 2nd place results in Westminster By Elections with vote shares “on the graph”
- Council by elections with vote shares going off the right-hand side of the graph
- UKIP’s realistic aspirations for the European elections well to the right of the graph.
The key is hanging onto all those votes in a General Election, but how to do that would be the subject of another article.
Underlying this analysis is that once “on the graph”, with the uncertainty of the UKIP vote share in 2015, we really do not know how many seats UKIP will take: it could be just one, or it could be 326, all within 14% of swing in the popular vote. And within that whole range (1-326) most of UKIP’s seats will be taken from the Tories, but with some from Labour marginals and a number of Liberal Democrat seats. Labour’s heartlands are better defended to UKIP advances as the party has taken less votes from Labour than the Tories.
UKIP Vote %
|So, let’s look at some possible outcomes, with a prediction of the likely make-up of Parliament given differing swings to UKIP (assuming the known factors identified above). At the present time, it looks like the Conservatives are dead in the water in terms of winning an overall majority, and the Liberal Democrats will be “also-rans”, hanging onto a few stronghold seats.|
At the bottom end of the scale, up to UKIP obtaining around 23% of the popular vote (and remember that is across the whole country, including Scotland, Wales and NI) UKIP will gain a few seats in their areas of strongest support, and Labour will win an overall majority. At that point, however, we enter a world of bewildering coalition/agreement possibilities.
At any point from UKIP having 23% of the vote to around 32%, a Labour–Conservative coalition is a distinct possibility. UKIP keep saying how similar their policies are: a lot of the “Punch and Judy” in Westminster is a show to make the public think they are different, but on major issues they are ruled by Brussels. And with both parties being Europhiles, this zone is a distinct danger area for the country. However, one suspects and hopes that there will be a major “cultural” block to the very idea of the old adversaries of the last 100 years getting into bed with each other.
However, when UKIP reaches around 25% of the popular vote and the same number of seats Lib Dem has now, a Labour–UKIP agreement of some sort becomes a possibility (but not a Conservative-UKIP one). In this writer’s opinion, this would not be a coalition, per se, more a “confidence and supply” arrangement. Basically, it would be “Give us an IN-OUT Referendum and we’ll back your other measures on a case-by-case basis.”
Climbing higher up the scale and through the 29% level, we enter into the world of a possible Conservative–UKIP coalition, which would probably sit more comfortably with both parties. The red lines have already been drawn by UKIP on that one: an IN-OUT Referendum, and a leader other than Cameron. A coalition with the Tories on around 197 seats and UKIP on 131 (total 328) is a possibility, albeit not a very strong one being very prone to rebel votes. However, as the UKIP vote increases, progressively taking more seats from Labour, such a coalition with UKIP as the senior partner starts to become a possibility: UKIP on say 179 seats and the Tories on 158 seats (337 seats, stronger with gains from Labour) at a vote share of 31%
And finally, the Valhalla: an overall majority for UKIP achieved at around 34% of the popular vote. UKIPpers can dream, but no one will know till the fat lady sings.