A minority, or a coalition? Why not both?

I’ve thought for a while now that we are currently living in a year that like 1910 and 1974, will involve two general elections. The polls are level, and at the moment, just aren’t moving. The impending Labour collapse in Scotland makes it almost impossible that they will be able to get above 300 seats, let alone a majority. The Tories, meanwhile, are set to pick up seats from the Lib Dems, but according to pretty much every poll, will then lose more to Labour.

Of course, whilst a second election would be fantastic for nerds like myself, it’s unlikely that any of the main parties would relish fighting two campaigns in one year. Labour’s options post-election on paper seem to be less limited than the Tories. But what options are there exactly?


The May2015 blog has been fantastic throughout the campaign, and recently produced an excellent article, giving the reasons that they believe that Ed Miliband is set to become Prime Minister. Much of the analysis focuses on the likelihood of the current coalition, even with UKIP and DUP support, being unable to muster enough seats to outvote Labour and the SNP.


Of course, the SNP are Labour’s huge problem in this election. Yes, Nicola Sturgeon has performed well in the debates, and yes, her progressive rhetoric is going down well with some on the centre-left in England. The fact remains that the SNP’s ultimate aim is independence. Polling shows that Labour voters see a deal with the SNP as less palatable than coalition with the Lib Dems. If Labour can possibly avoid doing a deal with the SNP, then they would jump at the opportunity.


But is this possible? Let’s take the May2015 forecast:


CON (270)
LAB (273)
LD (26)
SNP (55)
UKIP (3)
GRN (1)


A Labour/SNP deal takes them to 328, over the magic majority number. But, what if Labour decide to do things differently? The key platform that the SNP are running on, is that they are an anti-Tory party. What if Labour were to instead isolate the Tories completely, and go into coalition with the Lib Dems?


Lab/LD coalition: 299 seats
Con: 270


So why, you might ask, would Labour go into coalition with the Lib Dems when it doesn’t get them over the majority mark?


Well, firstly, there is a huge difference between Labour having the Lib Dems alongside them in government than in opposition. Any minority government will need to win votes. It’s much easier to vote against the government when in opposition – Lib Dems with a stake in the government would be far less likely to oppose government votes.


Secondly, a Lab/Lib coalition would be stable. Whatever faults or problems the Lib Dems may have had in government, there has never been any sign throughout the last five years that the government is suddenly going to implode. The Lab/Lib coalition would have around 30 more seats than the Tories on current polling. And – crucially – would the SNP dare to vote with the Tories on key votes?


It’s a risky strategy. Personally, I think that if the SNP were responsible for bringing down a Labour government, or voted against progressive policies, their popularity in Scotland would soon disintegrate. But if the SNP supported the coalition on key votes, or even abstained, then suddenly Labour have the benefits of a stable government, and not having to make any deals with the SNP.


Of course, this also depends on the Libs holding around 25 seats. Any fewer, and suddenly the upside of having them in coalition starts to disappear.


A minority coalition with the Lib Dems – could it be the solution for Labour?

What would constitute a ‘success’ for the LDs in 2015?

Whilst the next election looks set to be a close run thing between Labour and the Conservatives, both parties at least know that they should have a large base of seats to work with for future elections. Both Labour and the Tories have core votes that far surpass any of the other political parties in the UK.

So, whilst the main media narrative will rightly be on who forms the next government, election night for the Lib Dems will be focused inwards – just how bad is it going to get for them?

Under Nick Clegg in 2010, the Liberal Democrats scored 23% of the vote. For a party that had been consistently marginalised by the two main parties, this should have been seen as a resounding success. As it was, the Lib Dems actually failed to live up to the numbers that they had been polling at prior to the election – which were in the mid twenties to low thirties – and in the end lost seats.

When 2015 comes around however, their 2010 performance could seem like a distant dream in comparison. Anyone who even vaguely follows opinion polling will know that the Lib Dem vote has been slashed to around a third of their 2010 result – not just losing votes to Labour, as would be expected following their entry into the Coalition – but also directly to their coalition partners, as well as the Greens and UKIP.

I’ve looked at this before, as have many people, and it’s obvious that the Lib Dems are leaking votes in all directions. The question I want to ask is what exactly would be a (relative) success for them next year.

You have to look at this in terms of either vote share or seats. It is 100% inevitable that the Lib Dem vote share is going to fall substantially at the next election. I expect them to get into double figures (perhaps only just) but that may end up being entirely irrelevant. The party currently holds 57 seats, and some have predicted that they could fall to as low as 20 seats. I think this is unlikely, but it would be a complete disaster and would also considerably weaken their hand in the situation of another hung parliament.

For Clegg to have any serious ambitions about holding on, I think the Lib Dems need to hold about 40 of their seats. To hold two-thirds of their seats at a time where almost every possible thing that could have gone wrong for the Lib Dems has done, could be spun as some kind of success.

Of course, the party may decide it is time for a new face no matter what the result is, and there is also the possibility that any coalition involving Labour would demand Nick Clegg’s head upon a platter. But with 40 or so seats, the Lib Dems could look to the future with far more optimism than otherwise – the question is, will the popularity of their local MPs, and the tactical votes that they have won in previous elections be enough to see them cling on – or will we see the wipeout that some have predicted, and that all members of the Lib Dems must secretly fear.

Could the Tories’ chance of a majority be scuppered by the Lib Dems?

Lord Ashcroft conducted a poll into the CON/LD battleground today – and his findings – while not great for the Lib Dems – were not as bad as they could have been. 

The reason that there is some good news for the Lib Dems is that it looks like Labour voters will still be prepared to vote tactically against the Tories. We already saw some possible indication of this in Eastleigh, and Ashcroft’s poll seems to back it up.


(from lordashcroftpolls.com)

The table on the left shows how people would vote in a general election – the table on the right shows how they will vote in their local constituency at said election. On the face of it, you would think there should be very little difference in these figures. But just look at how the Labour vote drops, and the Lib Dem vote rises when voters are asked about their specific constituency. This shows us that many LD>LAB switchers in LD/CON marginals may still be prepared to vote tactically.

This is bad news for the Tories. Their main hope of getting a majority next year depends on them making good gains from the Lib Dems. If the Lib Dem position improves even slightly between now and 2015, we could see them holding on in seats that the Tories desperately need to gain.

The poll still shows the Tories gaining seats from the LDs – and make no mistake, the Lib Dem position is still woeful at a national level – but it may not be the complete annihilation that some are predicting. My (hypothetical) money is still on a hung parliament – the only thing I can’t decide on is who will be the largest party.

Sunday Polling Roundup – 18/05/2014

There were a raft of polls last night, three pollsters all carrying out both European and Westminster polling. The big story was ComRes showing a huge 11 point lead for UKIP in the Euro elections, which hasn’t really been backed up by anyone else. Indeed – ICM had UKIP in 3rd place.


Here’s a quick roundup of my Tweets on the polling:-





11/05/2014 – Overnight polling

There was a lot of polling released on Saturday night/Sunday morning – here’s a summary:-


Overall, some good news for Labour in YouGov, good news for UKIP in the others, and some very good news for the No campaign in the IndyRef. The biggest thing for me is the disparity between pollsters like Opinium/Survation and YouGov with the UKIP share – someone is getting it horribly wrong, and we won’t know who until the election takes place. Less than a year to go now…

Labour are losing LD switchers – but they aren’t going back to the Lib Dems

A few weeks ago I wrote an article saying that the Lib Dems best hope of saving seats was to try to persuade centrist Conservatives that they were now a more natural home for them than the current Conservative party. I pointed out that the Lib Dems were losing roughly 10% of their 2010 vote to the Tories, and that they should be focusing on winning it back.

However, the problem has actually got worse for them – and it’s not just bad news for the Lib Dems – it’s bad news for Labour.

As many people have pointed out, the two central numbers that are the key to the next election are 1) Tory voters switching to UKIP, splitting the vote of the right, and 2) LD voters switching to Labour, particularly in marginal Lab/Con constituencies.

In the last few days, there seems to have been a fresh narrowing of the Labour lead. And, as the graph below shows, it is because Labour are losing some 2010 LD switchers. However – it seems that they are not going back to their original home – but actually moving to the Tories.

It’s best shown in the graph below, from the last couple of weeks of YouGov polling. As the LD>LAB switchers become fewer, the Labour lead narrows – and the Tories pick up more Lib Dems.


This is worrying for both Clegg and Miliband. Don’t forget – in most LD held seats, the Tories are in second place. As for Labour – they are not picking up anywhere near enough voters directly from the Tories – they are incredibly reliant on the Lib Dem switchers continuing to intend to vote Labour. We’ll see if the current trend of more LD>CON switchers continues.

Today’s YouGov roundup – Westminster + European polling




The Lib Dems are going to have to face the possibility of coming 5th in the EU elections

Today’s YouGov showed a Westminster voting intention roughly in line with what we’ve been seeing lately – a Labour lead of 5.



Meanwhile, their poll for the EU elections shows a very different picture. There is bad news for all of the major parties – Labour will want to win these elections, or it will be much harder for them to claim any kind of high ground over the Tories when it comes to UKIP. The Tories, obviously, are in an awful position, similar to Labour in 2009, and the Lib Dems are in serious danger of coming 5th, behind the Greens.


For this is not the first EU poll which has showed the Greens running the LDs extremely close. I think the Lib Dems will end up coming 4th – just – but if the worst does happen for them, and they are overtaken by the Greens – serious questions will have to be asked about the future direction of the party.

I still think all three leaders will be there at the 2015 election, but these elections could have a huge impact on the future strategies of all three parties.

YouGov – 23/04/2014

As well as the usual Westminster VI numbers, there was a European Parliament poll in today’s YouGov. Both showed small Labour leads – over the Tories in Westminster, and UKIP in Europe.

Here they both are:





Other details in the poll show a 40-38% lead for staying in the European Union in the event of a referendum – a lead for IN has been quite common recently, and might just dampen UKIPs hopes that they are on the right side of public opinion. It is starting to look clear now, however, that the European elections are going to be a fight for first between Labour and UKIP – which could cause some serious rumblings among Tory backbenchers. The elections are now less than a month away, and should be fascinating.