Here we go…

In News on May 6, 2010 by dadge

It’s polling day. Looks like the Tories are going to overtake Labour for the first time since 1992, but getting the big swing needed to form a majority administration is probably beyond them. The results are going to be fascinating.

It’s hard to remember now, but the outcome of the last election was quite controversial: Labour won comfortably with just 36% of the votes cast. Taking into account the appallingly low turnout, this meant that they received a mandate to govern the country for five years on the basis of the support of less than a quarter of the electorate!

This time the Conservatives can’t quite match that, but they wouldn’t be far off. If the result was Con 38% Lab 25% LibDem 25% that could translate into seats (according to Baxter) as Con 333, Lab 210, LibDem 77. If turnout is 70%, only 26.6% of the electorate will have voted Conservative, but we’ll still have a Conservative government.

Notice also that if that hypothetical result was reversed (Lab 38% Con 25% LibDem 25%) the numbers of seats would be approximately: Lab 381, Con 158, LibDem 83. The same vote total would give Labour 50 more seats than it would for the Tories, and a whopping majority. This is the “Labour bias” in the system you sometimes hear mentioned. David Cameron seems to blame this bias on the variability in constituency sizes, and while that does have some effect, it’s a also a consequence of the packing of Labour votes in its urban heartlands, and of systematic inertia in the redistribution process.

Anyway, I’m now thinking that the election result will be somewhere around Con 37% (+4), Lab 26.5% (-10), LibDem 26.5% (+4). (This isn’t far off the 1983 result, except that Mrs Thatcher got 42% of the votes. A lot more people vote for minor parties these days, hence the disappearing 5%.) A clear margin of victory but not enough, luckily, to gain an overall majority. I say luckily because it’s surely now become illegitimate for any party to win with such a low level of support.

Seats prediction: Con 308 (+110), Lab 219 (-137), LibDem 89 (+27), Others 34 (+4).


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