Politics again, I’m afraid.
The news reports are saying that all this bargaining for deals has caught them on the hop and they weren’t expecting it. Rubbish—we have been expecting a hung parliament for weeks, at least since the mysterious Clegg surge, and it was very likely before that as the swing needed by the Conservatives for an absolute majority was unrealistically high.
The Tory press are criticising the LibDems (and being very insulting about it) for first trying for a Con alliance and, when that looked unlikely, going to Labour. That is what they said they would do before the vote—first try to seek an alliance with the party with the most votes. Get over it; this is real politics. However flawed, the people have elected those they want to represent them and it is up to those representatives to govern and that means forming a government. How they achieve that, we have entrusted to them.
Now that Brown has announced his resignation there is talk of yet another (Labour) Prime Minister without a mandate. That is rubbish too. Prime Ministers in this country do not have a direct mandate. They would need to be directly elected, presidential style to have that; we have Tony Blair to blame for giving people that impression. Again, we leave it up to our directly elected representatives, once they have formed a government, to select people for the jobs that need to be done and that includes Prime Minister.
Looking at a possible coalition, let’s look at some numbers. There are 650 seats so technically 326 are needed for a majority. The Conservatives won 306 and we can allow them one more for the vacant but safe Tory seat. They can usually count on the support of the Unionists (DUP 8 ) which gives them a working total of 315. Labour won 258 and can usually count on the SDLP (3) making 261. The Liberal Democrats won 57 and both the Green party (1) and the Alliance party (1) are likely to support them on most issues making 59.
A Liberal/Labour alliance adds up to 320. Of the remainder, Sinn Fein (5) don’t take up their seats, so that means a majority of only 322 is actually needed. Both sides are a few short leaving them at the mercy of the two nationalist parties, Plaid Cymru (3) and SNP (6) and an independent. It is just possible that the Conservatives could pull off a coup and form an alliance with these but which ever side does it, it will be at the expense of some concessions for their national interests and neither looks good for the economy or a stable government.
Digressing a little, lets look at what it would have been in a true proportional representation system. This is not realistic because firstly, no system will allocate the seats strictly according to the votes cast as I have done here but also because, if you change the voting system, people will vote differently; but lets do it any way. The results would have been Conservative 235, Labour 189, LibDem 150, UKIP 20, BNP 12, SNP 11, Green 7, Sinn Fein 4, DUP 4, Plaid Cymru 4, SDLP 3, Ulster Con/Unionist 2, Alliance 1 and eight others.
I am not going to say how I did it (remember these are only my personal opinions) but I think that would give natural (if strained) groupings supporting a Conservative government of 275 and a Labour one, 193 with 158 supporting the Liberal Democrats. That would definitely form a stable left leaning alliance but I can see why the Conservatives would not be keen on voting reform—they would be unlikely to ever form a government again!
P.S. Don’t be frightened by those extremist parties that would suddenly get seats, that is real politics too, and it is highly unlikely that they would get so many votes once the system was in place and people could vote for the policies they really want with an expectation that they will actually be heard.