January 05, 2015

Horse 1815 - Playing With The Numbers - 2015 UK General Election

On May 7th which is St Louise's Day (St Loiuse being the patron saint of Cheese - Cheese Louise), the still United for now Kingdom goes to the polls for a general election.

I've been plugging some numbers into the BBC's website calculator¹ from 5 years ago and have turned up some interesting results.

Currently the lie of the land is as follows:
306 seats - Conservatives
258 seats - Labour
57 seats - Liberal Democrat
29 seats - Others

In the election of 2005, the Conservatives were 20 seats short of a majority in their own right and so David Cameron entered into a coalition with Nick Clegg to secure the votes required from the Liberal Democrats to supply in the Commons and that has been in place for five years.
Things aren't so rosy in coalition land though, as over the past five years there's been riots in London and a general feeling that the people just aren't happy with the arrangement.

One of the Conservatives first acts was to honour a promise to the Liberal Democrats to switch to a preferential voting system like we have in Australia. They then made sure that that promise was more or less pointless by running a very loud NO campaign against the proposal; it duly fell over.

Had the AV system been adopted then the landscape would have been markedly different. As it is though, I think that the Liberal Democrats (who for the past five years have been seen as lapdogs and have been only given second-rate cabinet posts) will face political oblivion.

Lets imagine for a second that a purely proportional representation system had been adopted across the UK as a single constituency. The numbers would have fallen as follows in the 2010 election:
234 seats - Conservatives
189 seats - Labour
150 seats - Liberal Democrat
77 seats - Others

Clearly such an arrangement would have been interesting but this is only the stuff of fantasy.

Curiously, if we plug the actual percentages of the various parties' vote share into the election calculator for 2010 of 36.1% Con, 29.0% Lab, 23.0% Lib-Dem and 11.9% Others, we get the following results:
291 seats - Conservatives
266 seats - Labour
64 seats - Liberal Democrat
29 seats - Others

This still would have required a coalition to be formed because neither the Conservatives or Labour would win the necessary 326 seats to form government.

The situation for the Lib-Dems however is dire. If we take the latest opinion polls from YouGov/The Sun² (which usually has its finger on the pulse) and we plug in the results of 32.0% Con, 35.0% Lab, 9.0% Lib-Dem and 24.0% Others, we get the following results:

231 seats - Conservatives
360 seats - Labour
30 seats - Liberal Democrat
29 seats - Others

This nominally suggests a swing away from both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats; thus giving Labour a majority in their own right and hence, government.

Now I know that playing with calculator toys can give you any result you desire but I still think that the result is at least instructive. Asking Uncle Wiki³ (who is Uncle Google's younger brother) yields the answer that you have to go all the way back to about Christmas 2010 to find a consistent streak of polls which put the Conservatives in front of Labour on a two-party basis. Since then, there's mainly been a wall of red.
Actually if you look through the long streaks, Labour gains a wee bit of a peak just after the handing down of the budget in March and the election which is held in May, might coincide with another one of those cyclical peaks. If Labour tracks in the low 40s in May, they'll almost certainly win back government and if the Lib-Dems are currently tracking in single digits, who knows what will happen in May?
I wouldn't be surprised if the Lib-Dems though. don't even get 30 seats in the next parliament. Who knows, maybe Vince Cable will return as leader simple because he's the last senior member left standing.

The dark horse of the election might be UKIP, who on the back of MPs defecting from the Conservatives have already won two seats in the Commons in by-elections. They might pick up a few seats from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and win seats in a general election for the very first time.

This early though, I'm leaning towards a Labour government being returned in May; with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister; that's a weird weird thought. All he needs to do really is run an election campaign with three words "Protect The NHS" and he's more or less assured of victory.
Actually I think that a shopkeeper's dog could lead the Labour Party to victory... that sounds strangely familiar.

¹http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/election_2010/8609989.stm
²http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/3de0qwa0dn/YG-Archive-Pol-Sun-results-221214.pdf
³http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2015_United_Kingdom_general_election

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