Friday, April 10, 2015

Pollsters Predict: Miliband Nudging Ahead

Touch of UK Election geekdom this fine Wednesday morning. Look, I know The Guardian is in full left-wing campaigning mode. But that does not excuse ignorance of demonstrable trends and British constitutional practice. Sigh. By the numbers.

Any halfwit, looking at the trend of polling from last May until now, can see that the position has moved, albeit painfully slowly, from an 8% Labour lead to an average 1% Tory lead. That hardly favors Miliband.

There is nothing to suggest any change to the scenario where the SNP is projected to take about 30 Labour seats in Scotland.

Add the latter to the general polling trend, and every professional election forecast in the UK is predicting the Tories will end up with the most seats in a stalemated Westminster Parliament. Including The Guardian's own forecasting unit.

At which point we move on to a very dry recitation of UK constitutional reality. Grip hot chocolate firmly.

Under UK constitutional practice, the sitting Prime Minister is known as First Agent, and may have first shot at forming a government that can command a winning vote in Parliament. Please note: winning vote, not majority of seats.

If he or she can not do so, under the Gus O'Donnell (Cabinet Secretary at the time) rules, instituted in 2010, if the sitting Prime Minister can not command a winning vote in the new Parliament, he or she must invite the leader of the largest party to attempt to form a government.

There is all this guff about, even if Cameron leads the largest party, Labour will form a government with the SNP. Not only will that not happen (I'll come to that), it can not happen.

As both sitting Prime Minister and as leader of the largest party, the only person calling the shots will be David Cameron. He will be under no obligation to invite Ed Miliband to do anything.

But. But. What will happen to government? Well, nothing. Or rather, nothing will change. The existing government will continue. You see, Cameron knows that stalemate favors him. How so?

The economy will continue to improve. All the major reforms are in place. No more legislation is required. As to Parliament, as and when votes are required, Cameron will forge temporary alliances, and challenge the opposition parties to vote him down.

Aha, that's when Labour/SNP will defeat him and force him to hand over power. Er. Not so fast.
Contrary to all the chit-chat, Labour don't want to be seen dead supporting SNP.

At worst, SNP will demand a new Scottish Referendum. At the very least, SNP will be seen to be imposing policies on the English. Either option would be the kiss of death to Labour in England for a generation.

Besides, under the new Fixed-terms Parliament Act 2011, defeat in Parliament would not hand power to Labour. It would lead to a new election.

If Labour are not the largest party in Parliament after this coming election, there will be a truly ugly battle for the soul of the Labour Party. Add that to an improving economy, and Cameron would love an early second election. Not so much Labour.

So. The constitutional reality is that, if the Tories are the largest party after the coming election, they will remain in office, until such time as Labour feel it is safe for them to test the will of the British people again.

In the meantime, Cameron will preside over an improving economy, and will use his skill at compromise, honed over five years of coalition government, to seek the support of Parliament only for consensual legislation, that does not openly piss off Labour. Indeed, look for Cameron to cherry pick from Labour's wardrobe.