Saturday, 13 March 2010

Labour set for return to power?

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Astonishing as it would have seemed just a few months ago, Labour is set to return to power and Gordon Brown to remain as Prime Minister; for now.

With the polls heading towards Labour retaining around 33% of the national polls, on a uniform swing the final tally of seats could be:-

UK Polling
Liberal Democrats
Northern Ireland
Other inc Green

The magic figure to begin to form a majority Government is 326 but the politics of the UK Government are steeped in centuries of convention and rules, so nothing is straightforward. For instance, you need to discount the Speaker and his two deputies as part of the equation since they do not normally vote in the House.
There are various seat calculators including Sky, Electoral Calculas, and UK Polling Report to name but three.
The prediction models all use basic calculations so there will be both one offs that will throw the results (such as in Solihull in 2005 when the Lib Dems won against the odds) and the impact of boundary changes make predictions more difficult. However, without an army of political pollsters to calculate every seat using every nuanced local factor, these predictions give a reasonable expectation of the overall result.
If Labour succeeds in pushing around 33% of the vote, the way the UK general election ‘model’ works is that it will be likely to be the largest party. Unless the Conservatives can reclaim over 40% of the votes and around a 9% lead over Labour, they will fail to be the largest party. Furthermore, as the gap closes, so Labour overtakes the Conservatives in number of seats. The Lib Dems may fare better than the above prediction by perhaps another ten seats since they deliver more seats than the pollsters give them credit and usually go up over the course of an election campaign. However, they will probably gain at the expense of the Conservatives further compounding Cameron's problems.
The results above show Labour with their noses ahead of the Conservatives by a mere 9 to 17 seats but given the sitting Prime Minister is first asked if he/she can form a Government, Gordon Brown would be asked first. The question is then if he strikes a deal with the Lib Dems or attempts to go it alone with a minority Government?
Now over the next seven weeks, there will be many twists and turns with rogue polls throwing everyone out, gaffes, changes to policies being announced and ‘events, dear boy, events’. Those events could yet see a Conservative victory and David Cameron in Number 10 Downing Street. But the polls are now showing some consistencies and trends. The trend is the Conservatives slightly down on last year and Labour recovering steadily.
The countdown to the election will really start in earnest (although many would argue it has been going on for the past two years) when the budget is announced on 24th March. For a 6th May election day, Parliament would therefore be dissolved on 12th April with TV debates on 15th, 22nd and 29th April.
So my prediction (after expecting a Conservative Government based on last year’s polls), would be a deal brokered between Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg (as Kingmaker) to provide Labour with a Lab-Lib Government with 340 seats and a majority of 14. 

Whilst that majority is slim and would not normally be strong enough to carry a Government the full five years (due to by-election defeats and rebels on particular votes) it would probably be enough to give a Prime Minister 6 to 12 months ‘honeymoon’ to put forward more popular policies before returning to the polls to try and gain a larger majority or to ride out the storms ahead with the odd defeat on Bills and use nationalist votes to keep the Government more or less on track.
So what would Gordon Brown do the day after the election on Friday 7th May?
Well, providing Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems agree either a formal agreement or a robust vote by vote mechanism to support the Government, we can expect Brown to ease out certain Cabinet members to make room for three or four Lib Dems and as retribution for those who have been ‘disloyal’ and to promote his supporters.
Perhaps the ‘key’ members of the new Cabinet in 2010 may look like:-
The Cabinet
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service
Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Rt Hon Ed Balls MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Rt Hon Lord Mandelson
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Rt Hon. Nick Clegg MP
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Rt Hon. Vince Cable MP
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP
Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor
Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP
Secretary of State for Defence
Rt Hon. Sir Menzies Campbell CBE  QC MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Rt Hon. Chris Huhne MP
Secretary of State for International Development
Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo MP
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Rt Hon Edward Miliband MP
Secretary of State for Health
Rt Hon. Mike Foster MP (Worcester)
Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal
Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP
Will Alastair Darling, David Miliband, Jack Straw, Alan Johnson and others find demoted jobs in the Cabinet or will they be consigned to the backbenches with the promise of other ‘ambassadorial’ jobs to soften the blow?
What will happen to David Cameron? He will face huge criticism after having large leads in the polls in 2008 and 2009 and yet failing to deliver a Conservative Government. Nevertheless, it is likely he will keep his job whilst the Conservatives hope that the Coalition government falls.
The interesting question will be can this coalition government work together? There will be obvious tensions and rows especially when the government has to enforce cuts in capital spending and departmental budgets such as health or education. When Labour’s opinion ratings sink lower in 2011, will Labour oust Gordon Brown? Ultimately, will Cameron win the following election and not be tainted with implementing huge budget cuts providing him with an outright majority in a fresh election in 2011 or 2012? The Conservatives could face a difficult election aftermath but find they are the real winners within a year.
The next few months and years are going to be some of the most interesting in British politics for a generation. 

1 comment:

  1. Go on then, Money where your mouth is. 4-1 in a two horse race.

    Camerons disliked but Browns hated by Joe Public, and as somebody non aligned to any political party, I figure that this point in particular, may well be the deciding factor come May.


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