Unsurprisingly there’s been much talk about a Hung Parliament in the last few days and even the months preceding it. But, when it comes to majorities, what is the actual number needed and how do the numbers stack up?
The first thing to note is that the “magic number” is half the house, +1 for a working majority. So with 650 members, you theoretically need at least 326 MPs for a working majority, but as many of my compatriots have already pointed out, that’s not exactly true. The first people to discount are the Speaker & his 3 Deputy Speakers, who are entirely non-partisan. That brings the number of members down to 646, meaning you need 324 MPs for a working majority. Then of course there’s Sinn Fein, who won’t swear the oath needed to take up their seats, so their 5 seats are also out of play. That brings the total number of MPs in play down to just 641 and the total number needed for a working majority down to 321.
So, that established, how do the “deals” stack up? First, lets apportion people who are in strong electoral alliances together hence:
Tory = 306 (15 short)*
Labour/SDLP =261 (60 short)
Lib Dem / Alliance = 58 (Way short)
*Whilst the DUP are very close to the Tories and often vote with them, they are not, to my knowledge, in an electoral alliance yet and hence have not been included in their numbers. The DUP would put the Tories on 314.
Tory/Lib Dem Coalition (w/ DUP)
This would provide the clearest majority of all three, giving the Tories 372 seats and a working majority of 51 seats. However, the fact is, with the Tories & DUP on one side, it is likely that the Right Wings of both parties, which are larger would end up outweighing the progressive side of the Tories and of course the Lib Dems and would result in us implementing much of what we want. Also, I can’t really see the Tories going further than AV, if that’s the only thing on the table so far and if they don’t, I can’t see the Parliamentary Party nor the Federal Exec giving the deal 75% approval.
Lib Dem / Labour Deal
Taking Labour, the Lib Dems, the SDLP and the Alliance, this deal would be 2 votes shy of a working majority. The Greens are fairly closely aligned on social issues so Caroline Lucas might well come on board in return for a couple of their “Greener” policies that the others agree with, leaving the alliance 1 short of a majority. That would mean that the coalition would either have to govern as a minority, with the Nationalists backing them on an issue by issue basis, or if this alliance could persuade Sylvia Hermon (Independent) to come on board then we’d be looking at a working majority. Just.
Its certainly doable and that would enable a coalition without the Lib Dems having to make a deal with Plaid, something I’d be willing to accept. It is also worth noting that on most issues, the Lib Dems and Plaid agree, so we vote together fairly often anyway. A more proportional system would potentially get closer to the table with this. AV+ would definitely be on the table and STV might even be, even if the Labour Party is only agreeing because it would curb the power of the Tories!
This would be a formal coalition between the parties in the Lib/Lab pact and the Nationalists. Based on Labour’s refusal to work with the SNP, this seems fairly unlikely, but were Plaid Cymru to move for a formal coalition, we would be in working majority territory. The Lib Dems might even support them on a redress of the Barnett Formula, which without the possibility of Scotland being disadvantaged and the SNP blocking it hoves into view pretty prominently, although Labour would get hammered in Scotland, so it’s even stevens on that one. Certainly it is a possibility and from my point of view a deal with Plaid might even be, dare I say it, a necessary evil.
As I think the maths shows, these deals are doable, especially the so called Lib/Lab Pact or indeed even a Progressive Alliance. But, time will tell and I suspect over the next few days it all gets a little interesting.
- Greg Foster
PS: I believe this is the point where people tell me if we back X I’ll never vote for you (the Lib Dems) again…..