A Level Politics

Improving your grade

Nick Clegg: Britain’s next prime minister?

Posted by Matt Walker on April 17, 2010

In the early 1980s, David Steel told the Liberal/SDP Alliance to “go back to your constituencies and prepare for government.” This was the height of Mrs Thatcher’s unpopularity and Labour were in complete disarray, putting the so-called Alliance on 50% in the polls. In the 1983 general election, they actually won a creditable 25% of the vote, just behind Labour. But they won only 3% of the seats. Good old first-past-the-post!

Since the first leaders’ debate on Thursday, the political world seems to have been turned upside down. That’s what is so great about an election campaign. Nick Clegg’s performance has been said to have ‘electrified’ the campaign and has turned the latest opinion polls on their heads.

A YouGov poll published today in The Sun has The Tories on 33%, Lib Dems on 30%, and Labour on 28%. According to this much esteemed publication, Labour are now in disarray, and apparently, Brown has ‘blown it’. I suppose you’d expect The Sun to take this line, given their support for the Conservative Party. But how accurate are they?

Well, if we use Electoral Calculus to help us, the result would be interesting. Assuming similar voting across all constituencies, including the marginals, this poll suggests that Labour would become the biggest party in a hung parliament, 9 seats ahead of the Tories, but 63 seats short of a majority. It is clear that both main parties could lose out if the Lib Dems do very well, but as this latest poll shows, if the gap between Labour and the Conservatives narrows, Cameron could well be the main loser. Indeed, some have argued that he was the big loser in Thursday’s debate because Nick Clegg stole his thunder as the charismatic voice of change.

There has even been talk this morning of the Liberal Democrats winning the election, which quite frankly is ludicrous. And of course, we should be cautious when analysing a single poll. There will be more for us to look at tomorrow. However, for political train-spotters like me, this is all very exciting!

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3 Responses to “Nick Clegg: Britain’s next prime minister?”

  1. Sam Dalton said

    Hopefully the Lib Dems’ surge in popularity will push forward electoral reform. If the Lib Dems are to form a coalition with a party, this would surely be one of the criteria that would have to be met. Labour currently support the Lib Dems on this – making a Lib-Lab coalition ever more likely. Nick Clegg’s whole strategy in the debate was to present himself as someone who could change British politics for the better by revamping the system, so I’m sure they’ll be using electoral reform as one of the main ways of doing this.

    Let’s hope this is the last election where first-past-the-post is used.

  2. Cassidy Gaffney said

    I would be very suprised if the next government didn’t push forward with electoral reform after the massive publicity it has recieved in recent years, whether that government is Conservative or Lib Dem.
    Unfortunatley Labour does not support Lib Dems on this, the liberal democrats want a complete constitutional reform for the benefit of the entire country, however, Labour only want as many votes as they can get and will therfore say any lies they have to.

  3. Sam Dalton said

    You’re right for once Cassidy – Labour propose changing to the AV system, which can actually be less proportional than FPTP. This would not benefit the Lib Dems, so Labour would have to agree to a more proportional voting system for a coalition between the two parties to occur. Labour probably want AV because it could help them in future, but they’re going to have to prioritise: do they want a slight change in the electoral system that might possibly give them a future advantage, or do they want the Lib Dem support that will keep them in power over the Tories? I know which one I’d go for.

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