FAQ: What is a hung parliament?
Posted by Matt Walker on November 22, 2009
An Ipsos MORI poll for the Observer newspaper today puts the Tories only 6% of Labour. In this survey, 37% of people said they would vote Tory at the next election; 31% Labour. Although the Tories are ahead, according to Electoral Calculus such a result would leave them with 296 seats, with Labour on 278.
Put another way, this poll predicts that the next election will result in a hung parliament. A hung parliament is when no party achieves an overall majority in the House of Commons. In 2005, Labour won a 66 seat majority. This meant that Labour had 66 more MPs than all of its opponents added together. This allowed it to form a government and pass any laws it wanted to, as they could always win a vote in the Commons (unless significant numbers of its own Labour MPs voted against them).
If this poll is accurate, the Conservatives would be 30 seats short of an overall majority. What would happen next is anyone’s guess. The Tories could run a minority government. This would be difficult, as at any moment the rest of the Commons could reject any Tory proposal, and ultimately, could bring the government down with a vote of no confidence. It could also lead to a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. What do you think would be the right outcome in this situation?
This is only one opinion poll and its relevance can only be measured by future polls. However, it is a reminder that it will be a significant challenge for the Conservative Party to win the next election with a decent majority.