A Level Politics

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FAQ: What is a hung parliament?

Posted by Matt Walker on November 22, 2009

a hung parliament 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.

Poll boost for PM

Andrew Rawnsley


7 Responses to “FAQ: What is a hung parliament?”

  1. Will Hazell said

    If they did form a Lib-Lab coaliton what would the long term effects be? I’m hoping that by the time they come to split apart again, the Liberal Democrats will be taken far more seriously due to “hanging out” with Labour for a whilst 😛

  2. Hannah Readshaw said

    I personally dnt think that coalitions are that bad, although it takes longer to come to a decision, surely its a better thought out result, as they have to debate and think through the issue, rather than one opinion winning out without thought of other opinions….??? so would a labour – lib dem goverment be that bad for britain in a time when the british public are very split on alot of issues?

  3. Emma Marshall said

    It’s bad because it takes longer to pass an agreement on most issues- Including urgent issues. In those times Britain needs to be reassured that their government is doing something productive towards the matter at hand, even though it may turn out not to have been the best solution in the first place; reassurance is what they want. Do you remember when the credit crash first came to light? Brown was criticised for not speaking out sooner, while Cameron stole the limelight with his speeches and plans about how he would fix it…
    I don’t think a coalition is the best way forward because it could involve slowing down every decision, which means fewer issues get dealt with over time.
    I think that if they don’t win a majority then there should be a vote of no confidence and another gerneral election.

  4. Matt Walker said

    Interesting thoughts guys.

    a) Hannah – would it be fair for the Lib Dems to keep Labour in power, if the Tories win loads more votes?

    b) Emma – would a coalition government be less stable than a minority government, the latter not having majority support in the Commons?

  5. Sam Dalton said

    I read the other day that Nick Clegg isn’t keen on a coalition with Labour, saying that the Conservatives would deserve to have more power than other parties since they would have won more votes. It wouldn’t be representative democracy if Labour and the Lib Dems had more power together over a party who won more votes would it? Mind you, whatever happens in the election you can argue that first-past-the-post isn’t representative democracy full stop.

  6. Cassidy Gaffney said

    To be honest if the liberals and labour created a coalition government then it wouldnt be much different to the labour government now.
    the effect of the lib-dems joining in a coalition would have the same effect as lichtenstein trying to become major players in the EU- sorry will

  7. […] emerged today that Whitehall (i.e. the Civil Service) has drawn up a plan in the event of a hung parliament next month. It has been suggested that the newly elected House of Commons would not meet for 18 […]

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