UK Election: A forgone conclusion

Tomorrow Gordon Brown is expected to announce an election for 6 May here in the UK.  As with the 2007 election in Australia, I’m calling it well in advance: the Conservatives will win.

This has nothing to do with the way I will vote, but rather to do with the frightening predictability of human behaviour.  The Conservatives will win because the polls have predicted it for over a year, and at no time in the history of any democratic election in any nation when the polls have consistently shown support for the opposition has the incumbent returned to power.

And regardless of what people tell you in your office, on television or around the dinner table, the truth is that the polls have consistently shown this result since late 2007.  Labour may be gaining support in the final few weeks, but it won’t be enough to change history.  And those who think a vote for the Liberal Democrats will be a useful alternative probably need to think again.  While the Lib Dems are also getting last minute votes, these will probably not be where they need them.  Lib Dem power is spread over the far north of Scotland, Wales, the far north east of England and pockets around the South West, but their target seats require a too-substantial swing to have any major impact on seat gains.  Importantly, the Lib Dems would need to more than quadruple their current number of seats in the House of Commons to go close to governing – so frankly, it’s insanely unlikely.  And given Plaid Cymru‘s (Welsh party) and the Scottish National Party‘s popularity and influence in Lib Dem heartland, I’m prepared to bet that the Lib Dems will alter their current positioning by less than 15 seats (they currently have 62 seats in the House of Commons).  Let’s see how I go there.

Whilst predictions on swing are difficult, it’s worth looking at the facts.  The Conservatives need a swing of 7% to have an outright majority government in the UK.  That’s even bigger than the swing of 5.44% achieved by the Australian Labor Party in 2007.  Any swing of 4.3-6.9% would result in a Conservative ‘Hung Parliament‘.  But the reality of even a hung parliament is that a coalition with all the minor parties probably wouldn’t happen, and thus a minority government rule is likely. And then, further down the track the Conservatives could dissolve the parliament and call another election when the economy is improving and then get even greater support for a full term.  Either way, it’s not looking good for Labour or indeed for the other parties.

But my gut feeling is that the Conservatives may just get that 7% swing.  It is a huge swing, and they may fall short, but I think many voters may be inclined to vote at this election where they may not have bothered otherwise, just to get Gordon Brown out of office.  And that will only help the Tories.

A few stats…

* Seats in the House of Commons at 2010 election: 650
* Labour held seats: 356
* Conservative held seats: 198
* Swing required for Tory minority 4.3%
* Swing required for Tory majority >6.9%

    That’s the way things are.  I can only end with this: if you want to have a say in the way things are going to be, then go forth and vote.

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